Highlighted Selections from:

Governance of Algorithms


Musiani, Francesca. “Governance by Algorithms.” Internet Policy Review (2013): 1–6. Web. via http://policyreview.info/articles/analysis/governance-algorithms

p.1: The algorithms subtending the information and communication technologies we daily use, the internet first and foremost, are (also) artefacts of governance, arrangements of power and “politics by other means” (Latour, 1988). -- Highlighted mar 12, 2014

p.2: By naming a conference held at New York University last May “Governing Algorithms”, its organisers were making a deliberate choice of ambiguity – hinting at both the governance of algorithms, the extent to which political regulation can affect the functioning of the instructions and procedures subtending technology, and the governing power of algorithms themselves. -- Highlighted mar 12, 2014

p.2: In a recent paper, communication scholar Tarleton Gillespie highlights six dimensions of political valence for algorithms that have public relevance, i.e., those algorithms that are used to select what is most relevant from a corpus of data composed of traces of our activities, preferences, and expressions” (Gillespie, 2013: 2). These six dimensions are: patterns of inclusion, the choices behind the constitution of an index, what is included and excluded in it, and l how data is “prepared” for the algorithm; cycles of anticipation, the consequences of attempts, by those creating the algorithms, to have information l about their users and make predictions on their future behaviours; the evaluation of relevance, the criteria by which algorithms determine what is not only relevant, but l appropriate and legitimate; the promise of objectivity, the way the technical nature of the algorithm is presented as a guarantee of l impartiality, particularly in the case of controversy; the entanglement with practice, the processes by which users reshape their practices to suit the algorithms l they depend on, and turn algorithms into terrains for political contest; finally, the production of calculated publics, the process of algorithmic presentation of publics back to l themselves, and how this shapes a public’s sense of itself. (Gillespie, 2013: 2-3) These six dimensions bring to the fore two main consequences of the “computation” of our information society. -- Highlighted mar 12, 2014

p.2: By asking questions such as: who are the arbiters of algorithms? Is algorithm design an assertion of authority over more than the algorithm itself? What is the autonomy of algorithms, if any? it is the accountability and the responsibility of algorithms as socio-technical artefacts that is examined, that of their creators and users, and ultimately, of the balance of power facilitated or caused by algorithms. -- Highlighted mar 12, 2014

p.2: According to Jürgen Habermas, the “father” of the public sphere concept, two conditions are necessary to structure a public space: freedom of expression, and discussion as a force of integration. The architecture of the “network of networks” seems to articulate these two conditions. However, if the first is frequently recognised as one of the widespread virtues of the internet, the second seems more uncertain (Cardon, 2013: 11). -- Highlighted mar 12, 2014

p.4: The academic landscape in the interdisciplinary fields of communication studies, internet studies and science and technology studies reflects a thriving and increasing interest for this question. As an additional path towards answering the key question, “who does the algorithm serve?”, scholars also investigate the historical process from which the algorithm has emerged as a key topic of our times and attempt to situate it in the larger context of political economy. (Berry, 2012: 277–296) -- Highlighted mar 12, 2014