Can an Algorithm be Agonistic? Ten Scenes from Life in Calculated Publics

PDF Posté par : Dominique Cardon

This paper explores how political theory may help us map algorithmic logics against different visions of the political. Drawing on Chantal Mouffe’s the- ories of agonistic pluralism, this paper depicts algorithms in public life in ten distinct scenes, in order to ask the question, what kinds of politics do they instantiate? Algorithms are working within highly contested online spaces of public discourse, such as YouTube and Facebook, where incompatible perspectives coexist. Yet algorithms are designed to produce clear ‘‘win- ners’’ from information contests, often with little visibility or accountability for how those contests are designed. In isolation, many of these algorithms seem the opposite of agonistic: much of the complexity of search, ranking, and recommendation algorithms is nonnegotiable and kept far from view, inside an algorithmic ‘‘black box.’’ But what if we widen our perspective? This paper suggests agonistic pluralism as both a design ideal for engineers and a provocation to understand algorithms in a broader social context: rather than focusing on the calculations in isolation, we need to account for the spaces of contestation where they operate.

Why Map Issues? On Controversy Analysis as a Digital Method

PDF Posté par : Dominique Cardon

This article takes stock of recent efforts to implement controversy analysis as a digital method in the study of science, technology, and society (STS) and beyond and outlines a distinctive approach to address the problem of digital bias. Digital media technologies exert significant influence on the enactment of controversy in online settings, and this risks undermining the substantive focus of controversy analysis conducted by digital means. To address this problem, I propose a shift in thematic focus from controversy analysis to issue mapping. The article begins by distinguishing between three broad frameworks that currently guide the development of controversy analysis as a digital method, namely, demarcationist, discursive, and empiricist. Each has been adopted in STS, but only the last one offers a digital ‘‘move beyond impartiality.’’ I demonstrate this approach by analyzing issues of Internet governance with the aid of the social media platform Twitter.

Governing Algorithms: Myth, Mess, and Methods

PDF Posté par : Dominique Cardon

Algorithms have developed into somewhat of a modern myth. On the one hand, they have been depicted as powerful entities that rule, sort, govern, shape, or otherwise control our lives. On the other hand, their alleged obscurity and inscrutability make it difficult to understand what exactly is at stake. What sustains their image as powerful yet inscrutable entities? And how to think about the politics and governance of something that is so difficult to grasp? This editorial essay provides a critical backdrop for the special issue, treating algorithms not only as computational artifacts but also as sensitizing devices that can help us rethink some entrenched assumptions about agency, transparency, and normativity.

Ajouter une ressource

Participer vous aussi au développement de la transparence des algorithmes et des données en ajoutant des ressources