I'm really excited to share my new essay, "The Relevance of Algorithms," with those of you who are interested in such things. It's been a treat to get to think through the issues surrounding algorithms and their place in public culture and knowledge, with some of the participants in Culture Digitally (here’s the full litany: Braun, Gillespie, Striphas, Thomas, the third CD podcast, and Anderson‘s post just last week), as well as with panelists and attendees at the recent 4S and AoIRconferences, with colleagues at Microsoft Research, and with all of you who are gravitating towards these issues in their scholarship right now....
...What we need is an interrogation of algorithms as a key feature of our information ecosystem (Anderson 2011), and of the cultural forms emerging in their shadows (Striphas 2010), with a close attention to where and in what ways the introduction of algorithms into human knowledge practices may have political ramifications. This essay is a conceptual map to do just that. I will highlight six dimensions of public relevance algorithms that have political valence:
1. Patterns of inclusion: the choices behind what makes it into an index in the first place, what is excluded, and how data is made algorithm ready
2. Cycles of anticipation: the implications of algorithm providers’ attempts to thoroughly know and predict their users, and how the conclusions they draw can matter
3. The evaluation of relevance: the criteria by which algorithms determine what is relevant, how those criteria are obscured from us, and how they enact political choices about appropriate and legitimate knowledge