Can an Algorithm be Disturbed?

PDF Posté par : Dominique Cardon

Within literary and cultural studies there has been a new focus on the “surface” as opposed to the “depth” of a work as the proper object of study. We have seen this interest manifested through what appears to be the return of prior approaches including formalist reading practices, attention to the aesthetic dimensions of a text, and new methodologies that come from the social sciences and are interested in modes of description and observation. In arguing for the adoption of these methodologies, critics have advocated for an end to what Paul Ricoeur has termed “the hermeneutics of suspicion” and various forms of ideological critique that have been the mainstay of criticism for the past few decades.2 While these “new” interpretations might begin with what was once repressed through prior selection criteria, they all shift our attention away from an understanding of a “repressed” or otherwise hidden object by understanding textual features less as signifier, an arrow to follow to some hidden depths, than an interesting object in its own right. Computer aided approaches to literary criticism or “digital readings,” to be sure, not an unproblematic term, have been put forward as one way of making a break from the deeply habituated reading practices of the past, but their advocates risk overstating the case and, in giving up on critique, they remain blind to untheorized dimensions of these computational methods. While digital methods enable one to examine radically larger archives than those assembled in the past, a transformation that Matthew Jockers characterizes as a shift from micro to “macroanalysis”, the fundamental assumptions about texts and meaning implicit in these tools and in the criticism resulting from use of these tools belong to a much earlier period of literary analysis.

Is there an ethics of algorithms?

PDF Posté par : Dominique Cardon

We argue that some algorithms are value-laden, and that two or more persons who accept different value- judgments may have a rational reason to design such algorithms differently. We exemplify our claim by dis- cussing a set of algorithms used in medical image analysis: In these algorithms it is often necessary to set certain thresholds for whether e.g. a cell should count as diseased or not, and the chosen threshold will partly depend on the software designer’s preference between avoiding false positives and false negatives. This preference ultimately depends on a number of value-judgments. In the last sec- tion of the paper we discuss some general principles for dealing with ethical issues in algorithm-design.

Digital Market Manipulation

PDF Posté par : Dominique Cardon

In 1999, Jon Hanson and Douglas Kysar coined the term “market manip- ulation” to describe how companies exploit the cognitive limitations of con- sumers. For example, everything costs $9.99 because consumers see the price as closer to $9 than $10. Although widely cited by academics, the concept of market manipulation has had only a modest impact on consumer protection law. This Article demonstrates that the concept of market manipulation is de- scriptively and theoretically incomplete, and updates the framework of the the- ory to account for the realities of a marketplace that is mediated by technology. Today’s companies fastidiously study consumers and, increas- ingly, personalize every aspect of the consumer experience. Furthermore, rather than waiting for the consumer to approach the marketplace, companies can reach consumers anytime and anywhere. The result of these and related trends is that firms can not only take advantage of a general understanding of cognitive limitations, but can uncover, and even trigger, consumer frailty at an individual level. A new theory of digital market manipulation reveals the limits of con- sumer protection law and exposes concrete economic and privacy harms that regulators will be hard-pressed to ignore. This Article thus both meaningfully advances the behavioral law and economics literature and harnesses that liter- ature to explore and address an impending sea change in the way firms use data to persuade.

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