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Figuring Control in the Algorithmic Era: A paradox of relations, desires, invisibilities, and illusions

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Drawing on actor network theory, we follow how algorithms, information, selfhood and identity-for-others tangle in interesting and unexpected ways. Starting with simple moments in everyday life that might be described as having implications for ‘control,’ we focus attention on the ways in which this concept immediately breaks
down whenever it becomes the object of analytical focus. Rather than accepting the limitations of our ways of seeing, or methods, we shift our analytical imagination to a more designerly, activist orientation. By doing so, we attempt to explore particular comprehensions of control retrospectively, and illustrate the powerful paradoxes operating in and through everyday actions of digital living. This paper is part of an ongoing ethnographic and phenomenological study of algorithmic life. The cases we offer in this paper take the shape of dialogues between various agents in particular situations. These are intended as figurations that can help us think through various working patterns of control, including beliefs about control, affective elements of control, enactments of control through specific code operations such as algorithms, making sense of perceived or actual loss of control, and consequences of maintaining an ambiguous stance toward the notion and operation of control within techno-cultural contexts. We believe this is a useful analytical move toward thinking about what is and what could be otherwise.
Original languageEnglish
Publication year2014
Number of pages4
Publication statusPublished - 2014
EventIR 15: Boundaries and Intersections - Beomeo Saint Western Hotel, Daegu, Korea, Republic of
Duration: 21 Oct 201425 Oct 2014


ConferenceIR 15
LocationBeomeo Saint Western Hotel
CountryKorea, Republic of

    Research areas

  • algorithms, control, data, Ethics, Internet

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ID: 100887152