Biagio Aragona, Cristiano Felaco

Understanding algorithms. Spaces, expert communities, and cultural artifacts

  • Abstract

Informations and abstract

Keywords: algorithm, focused ethnography, critical algorithm studies, cul- tural artifacts, communities of experts

This article aims at understanding how algorithms are designed in three European calculation centers, with the intent to reconstruct their overall sociotechnical assemblage. On the basis of individual and group interviews with domain, data, and IT experts working in these centers, we identify the communities involved in the construction of algorithms, and investigate how they organize and use the spaces where they work and make decisions. Our study is theoretically grounded in the field of critical algorithm studies, and concludes that algorithms are cultural artifacts, that is, objects conveying information about the culture of its creators. Culture, in the form of values, beliefs, and expectations, is embedded in algorithms. Moreover, even if algorithms are often presented as objective, from the interviews it emerges that they are designed in specific organizational settings: they are the result of complex, contingent and located dynamics.

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