Towards a Sociology of Algorithms


Tuesday 13 March 2012, 10h00


ENS de Lyon, Salle R143 (ENS de Lyon - bât. Recherche), 15 parvis René-Descartes, 69007 Lyon

Towards a Sociology of Algorithms

Workshop organized by Tarleton Gillespie


Algorithms play an increasingly important role in how we find the information most relevant to us. Google's search algorithms, Facebook's "News feed," Amazon's recommendations, and Twitter's "Trends:" every day we turn to computational algorithms designed to tell us what is most important, to us and to others. In fact, the information resources we have now created are so vast and complex, only algorithms can manage them. Yet with this embrace of the algorithm comes vulnerability. Algorithms decide which information is highlighted and overlooked, which associations are made or unmade. Yet their logics are opaque, built into tools we use but cannot open. The conclusions they draw have social and political implications for the people, communities, and organizations that depend on them.


What we need is a sociology of algorithms. This goes beyond asking how they work, or making them work better. As a pivotal feature of our information ecosystem, how do these algorithms shape the production and occlusion of information, knowledge, and culture? What obligations do the designers and deployers of algorithms now face, as their tools increasingly serve vital public functions in determining what is seen, what is perceived as relevant, and how we know ourselves as a public?


15/09/2011 - 15/07/2012