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30 MAY 2010

Software is increasingly making a difference to the constitution and production of everyday life

"The reason that a focus on Web 2.0 is significant and needed is because the popular web applications it represents are driven by users providing endless and virtually unlimited information about their everyday lives. To put it in Lash's terms, they are clearly on the inside of the everyday, they are up close, they afford direct and routine connections between people and software. We have not yet begun to think through how this personal information might be harvested and used. A starting point would be to find out how this information about everyday mundane lives is being mined, how this feeds into 'relational databases', and with what consequences: the very types of question that are being asked by the writers discussed here. Alongside this it is also important that we consider how the information provided by users, and other 'similar' users, might affect the things they come across. If we return to Last.fm, which 'learns' users' tastes and preferences and provides them with their own taste–specific online radio station, it is possible to appreciate how the music that people come across and listen to has become a consequence of algorithms. This is undoubtedly an expression of power, not of someone having power over someone else, but of the software making choices and connections in complex and unpredictable ways in order to shape the everyday experiences of the user. How we find the books that shape our writing could be a question we might ask ourselves if we wish to consider the power that algorithms exercise over us and over the formation of knowledge within our various disciplines. (I know of at least two occasions when Amazon has located a book of interest for me that has then gone on to form an important part of a published work.) This is not just about Amazon, it would also include searches on Google Scholar, the use of the bookmarking site Del.icio.us, the RSS feeds we might use, or the likely coming applications that will predict, locate and recommend research articles we might be interested in. Readers based in the UK will also by now be considering the power of algorithms to decide the allocation of research funding as the role of metrics in the forthcoming Research Excellence Framework (REF) are finalized."

(David Beer, 996–997)

Beer, D. (2009). "Power through the algorithm? Participatory web cultures and the technological unconscious." New Media & Society 11(6).

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TAGS

2009Amazon.com • blogjects • Bruce Sterling • coded objects • cognisphere • communicationcontent creation • context-aware • convergencecrisis of empiricism • cultural formations • cultural formsdatadata miningDel.icio.usdigital culturedynamic interfaceseveryday lifeflows • geodemographic classification • Google Scholarhuman agencyidentityinformationinformation society • intelligent devices • internet of thingsKatherine HaylesLast.fm • logjects • marketing discrimination • mediationmetadatamodes of being • modes of classification • modes of knowing • new media • new new media ontology • Nigel Thrift • old mediaperformative infrastructurespersonal data • post-hegemony • powerResearch Excellence FrameworkRFIDRoger BurrowsRSSScott Lashsocial bookmarkingsocial networkingsocial participation • software sorting • SPIMES • Steve Graham • technological unconscious • technology • transducting space • transformationubiquitous information flowsUKurban studiesvirtual spacesWeb 2.0William Mitchell

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
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