If...Then: Algorithmic Power and Politics - Oxford Studies in Digital Politics (Hardback)Taina Bucher (author)
Hardback 216 Pages / Published: 26/07/2018
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We live in a world in which Google's search algorithms determine how we access information, Facebook's News Feed algorithms shape how we socialize, and Netflix collaborative filtering algorithms choose the media products we consume. As such, we live algorithmic lives. Life, however, is not blindly controlled or determined by algorithms. Nor are we simply victims of an ever-expanding artificial intelligence. Rather than looking at how technologies shape or are shaped by political institutions, this book is concerned with the ways in which informational infrastructure may be considered political in its capacity to shape social and cultural life. It looks specifically at the conditions of algorithmic life - how algorithms work, both materially and discursively, to create the conditions for sociality and connectivity. The book argues that the most important aspect of algorithms is not what they are in terms of their specific technical details but rather how they become part of social practices and how different people enlist them as powerful brokers of information, communication and society. If we truly want to engage with the promises of automation and predictive analytics entailed by the promises of "big data", we also need to understand the contours of algorithmic life that condition such practices. Setting out to explore both the specific uses of algorithms and the cultural forms they generate, this book offers a novel understanding of the power and politics of algorithmic life as grounded in case studies that explore the material-discursive dimensions of software.
Publisher: Oxford University Press Inc
Number of pages: 216
Weight: 494 g
Dimensions: 242 x 162 x 19 mm
"This extraordinary book helps us understand how algorithms help shape our encounters and orientations in the world. Most profound is Bucher's methodology, for she reveals how throwing our hands up in the face of 'unknowable, ' black-boxed algorithms is a cop-out. Opacity, secrecy and invisibility, after all, are the basic conditions of human life. She thus offers us a three-pronged method for taking on algorithms that are both magical and concrete, good and bad, technical and social: we need to reverse engineering known unknowns; unpack our tacit knowledge about and affective experiences with platforms; and understand algorithms as situated practices. Ranging from Facebook's newsfeed to fake news, Bucher helps us see that the most important question isn't what is an algorithm, but when and how are algorithms?"- Wendy Hui Kyong Chun, Professor of Modern Culture and Media, Brown University
"To really understand the implications of algorithms, it is not enough to simply know what algorithms are or how they are used. You need a technical grounding in the logics of computation, a supple philosophy of social power, and a feel for the contours of lived experience. Taina Bucher has all of these. Here she offers a lucid and eye-opening explanation of how algorithmic systems like Facebook produce a new technical for the social."-Tarleton Gillespie, author of Custodians of the Internet: Platforms, Content Moderation, and the Hidden Decisions that Shape Social Media
"If this book proves that friendship is computable, then it also proves that scholarship is not. Taina Bucher explains the secrets of algorithms in a lucid and nontechnical way. A delight to read a young scholar's voice who truly understands the impact of algorithmic culture in everyday life."-Jos van Dijck, Utrecht University, author of The Culture of Connectivity and The Platform Society
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