Foucault News

News and resources on French thinker Michel Foucault (1926-1984)

Beer, D.
The social power of algorithms
(2016) Information Communication and Society, pp. 1-13. Article in Press.

DOI: 10.1080/1369118X.2016.1216147

Abstract
This article explores the questions associated with what might be thought of as the social power of algorithms. The article, which introduces a special issue on the same topic, begins by reflecting on how we might approach algorithms from a social scientific perspective. The article is then split into two sections. The first deals with the issues that might be associated with an analysis of the power of the algorithms themselves. This section outlines a series of issues associated with the functionality of the algorithms and how these functions are powerfully deployed within social world. The second section then focuses upon the notion of the algorithm. In this section, the article argues that we need to look beyond the algorithms themselves, as a technical and material presence, to explore how the notion or concept of the algorithm is also an important feature of their potential power. In this section, it is suggested that we look at the way that notions of the algorithm are evoked as a part of broader rationalities and ways of seeing the world. Exploring the notion of the algorithm may enable us to see how algorithms also play a part in social ordering processes, both in terms of how the algorithm is used to promote certain visions of calculative objectivity and also in relation to the wider governmentalities that this concept might be used to open up. © 2016 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group

Author Keywords
Algorithm; big data; code; Foucault; power; software

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