The algorithm, Tarleton Gillespie argues in this terrific essay, stands as a complex administrator of modern life.
In it Gillespie demystifies the many uses of the recent keyword algorithm, on loan from Arabic. It is at once a trick of the trade for software programmers, a synecdoche standing in for entire informational systems and their stakeholders in popular discourse, a talisman used by those stakeholders for evoking cultural authority and avoiding blame (e.g., to blame “Facebook’s algorithm” can implicitly shift responsibility away from the company that designed it), and shorthand for the broader sociocultural shift toward, as Gillespie argues, “the insertion of procedure into human knowledge and social experience.”
In rich conversation with Ted Striphas’ essay on culture and Stephanie Ricker Schulte’s essay on personalization, Gillespie clarifies and multiplies the ways the current media environment extends a larger bureaucratic revolution central to modernity.
This comment may have been adapted from the introduction to Benjamin Peters’ Digital Keywords: A Vocabulary of Information Society and Culture. 25% discount code in 2016: P06197
Excerpted from Digital Keywords: A Vocabulary of Information Society and Culture by Benjamin J. Peters, ed. © 2016 Princeton University Press. Reprinted by permission.