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A quick announcement about two new pieces from me, both of which relate to my ongoing research on the subject of algorithmic culture.
The first is an interview with Giuseppe Granieri, posted on his Futurists’ Views site over on Medium. The tagline is: “Culture now has two audiences: people and machines.” It’s a free-ranging conversation, apparently readable in six minutes, about algorithms, AI, the culture industry, and the etymology of the word, culture.
About that word: over on Culture Digitally you’ll find a draft essay of mine, examining culture’s shifting definition in relationship to digital technology. The piece is available for open comment and reflection. It’s the first in a series from Ben Peters’ “Digital Keywords” project, of which I’m delighted to be a part. Thanks in advance for your feedback—and of course with all of the provisos that accompany draft material.
Call for Papers: The European Journal of Cultural Studies
Special issue on Data Mining/Analytics
Editors: Mark Andrejevic (University of Queensland, Australia); Alison Hearn (University of Western Ontario, Canada); Helen Kennedy (University of Leeds, UK)
The widespread use of social media has given rise to new forms of monitoring, mining and aggregation strategies designed to monetize the huge volumes of data such usage produces. Social media monitoring and analysis industries, experts and consultancies have emerged offering a broad range of social media intelligence and reputation management services. Such services typically involve a range of analytical methods (sentiment analysis, opinion mining, social network analysis, machine learning, natural language processing), often offered in black-boxed proprietary form, in order to gain insights into public opinion, mood, networks and relationships and identify potential word-of-mouth influencers. Ostensibly, these various forms of data mining, analytics and machine learning also are paving the way for the development of a more intelligent or ‘semantic’ Web 3.0, offering a more ‘productive and intuitive’ user experience. As commercial and non-commercial organisations alike seek to monitor, influence, manage and direct social media conversations, and as global usage of social media expands, questions surface that challenge celebratory accounts of the democratizing, participatory possibilities of social media. Remembering that Web 2.0 was always intended as a business manifesto – O’Reilly’s early maxims included, after all, ‘data is the next Intel inside’, ‘users add value’ and ‘collaboration as data collection’ – we need to interrogate social media not only as communication tools, but also as techno-economic constructs with important implications for the management of populations and the formation of subjects. Data mining and analytics are about much more than targeted advertising: they envision new strategies for forecasting, targeting, and decision making in a growing range of social realms (employment, education, health care, policing, urban planning, epidemiology, etc.) with the potential to usher in new, unaccountable, and opaque forms of discrimination, sorting, inclusion and exclusion. As Web 3.0 and the ‘big data’ it generates moves inexorably toward predictive analytics and the overt technocratic management of human sociality, urgent questions arise about how such data are gathered, constructed and sold, to what ends they are deployed, who gets access to them, and how their analysis is regulated (boyd and Crawford 2012).
This special issue aims to bring together scholars who interrogate social media intelligence work undertaken in the name of big data, big business and big government. It aims to draw together empirically-grounded and theoretically-informed analyses of the key issues in contemporary forms of data mining and analytics from across disparate fields and methodologies. . Contributions are invited that address a range of related issues. Areas for consideration could include, but are not limited to:
Prospective contributors should email an abstract of 500-700 words to the issue editors by 9th December 2013 (to email@example.com). Full articles should be submitted to Helen Kennedy (firstname.lastname@example.org) by 12th May 2014. Manuscripts must be no longer than 7,000 words. Articles should meet with The European Journal of Cultural Studies’ aim to promote empirically based, theoretically informed cultural studies; essayist discussion papers are not normally accepted by this journal. All articles will be refereed: invitation to submit a paper to the special issue in no way guarantees that the paper will be published; this is dependent on the review process.
Abstract deadline: 9th December 2013 (to email@example.com);
Decisions on abstracts communicated by 13th January 2014;
Article submission deadline: 12th May 2014 (to firstname.lastname@example.org);
Final submission/review process complete: 13th October 2014;
For publication in 2015.
If you’re interested in algorithmic culture, etc., then you might want to consider submitting to this special issue of Computational Culture—an excellent, peer-reviewed open access journal.
Call for Papers: Special Issue of Computational Culture on Rhetoric and Computation
Rhetoric has historically been a discipline concerned with the ways that spoken and written language shape human activity. Similarly, emerging work in digital media studies (in areas such as software studies, critical code studies, and platform studies) seeks to describe the ways that computation shapes contemporary life. This special issue of Computational Culture on “Rhetoric and Computation” merges these two modes of inquiry to explore how together they can help us to understand ways that our communication and computational activities are now constituted by both human and computer languages.
Coupling the analysis of rhetoric with computation provokes a number of questions: How is the rhetorical force of computational objects different from or similar to that of language, sound, or image? What new modes of communication open up when we view computation as an expressive medium? How does computation shape or constrain rhetorical action? What new tropes, figures, and strategies emerge in computational environments? How do programmers deploy rhetoric at the level of code and interface? These questions are not exhaustive, and we welcome papers or computational projects that pursue these questions and others like them.
Topics or projects might include:
300 word abstracts are due November 25, 2013. Abstracts will be reviewed by the Computational Culture Editorial Board and the special issue editors. Authors of selected abstracts will be notified by January 31, 2014 and invited to submit full manuscripts by April 1, 2014. These manuscripts are subject to outside peer review according to Computational Culture’s policies. The issue will be published Fall 2014.
Annette Vee, Assistant Professor
Department of English, University of Pittsburgh
Computational Culture is an online open-access peer-reviewed journal of inter-disciplinary enquiry into the nature of cultural computational objects, practices, processes and structures. http://www.computationalculture.net/
You know when you have close to 7,000 comments in your spam filter that you haven’t checked in on your blog in a while. Sigh. Sorry about that. The good news is that I’ve been busy producing a bunch of new material on algorithmic culture that I’m excited to share here, finally.
The first is a podcast on “Algorithms and Cultural Production” that you can hear on Culture Digitally. It’s a conversation between me and the two principals over at C.D., Tarleton Gillespie and Hector Postigo. You may know Tarleton from his great work on the politics of Twitter trends, which you can read on Salon, among many other notable works. Hector just published his own book, The Digital Rights Movement: The Role of Technology in Subverting Digital Copyright (MIT Press), and a co-edited volume, Managing Privacy Through Accountability (Palgrave Macmillan); both look excellent and I look forward to reading them.
The other major work is an essay I’ve been pecking away at for the last few months entitled, “An Infernal Culture Machine: Intellectual Foundations of Algorithmic Culture.” I’ve finally got a finished draft in hand, and I’ll be debuting it on Wednesday, November 7 at the Center for the Humanities (CHAT) Lounge at Temple University in Philadelphia (Gladfelter Hall, 10th floor). The time is 4:00–5:30 pm.
The essay is prompted by the question, “What is culture today?” which I ask recognizing that our experiences of culture may not entirely square with the standard definitions you’ll find in dictionaries. I’ll be looking specifically at the emergence an algorithmic understanding of culture in the third quarter of the twentieth century and its uptake today in systems like Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, and others. Here’s the abstract, in case you’re interested:
An Infernal Culture Machine: Intellectual Foundations of Algorithmic Culture
The word culture has changed dramatically over the last sixty years, stretching its meaning in ways that people may be able to recognize but not fully articulate. My talk traces that shift to culture’s encounter with cybernetic theory, a body of research whose central concern is the process of communication and control in complex systems. Its main focus is the prevailing sociological and anthropological literature on culture of postwar America, particularly that of the third quarter of the 20th century. The writings of Talcott Parsons and Clifford Geertz are exemplary in this regard, but an individual lesser known to the human sciences figures prominently here as well: the termite scientist Alfred. E. Emerson, whose influence on Parsons’ conceptualization of culture was particularly deep and abiding. I intend to show how, within this constellation of work, we can begin to register the historical rudiments of what, in our own time, has coalesced into the phenomenon of “algorithmic culture,” or the use of computational processes to sort, classify, and hierarchize people, places, objects, and ideas.
The essay was a blast to write, taking me into the realm of etymology, entomology, and even Parsons’ FBI file. It sounds eclectic, but the narrative holds together pretty well, I assure you.
I can’t promise when exactly I’ll be back here again, but I will be back. You know I love you, readers!