Algorithms constitute much of our online reality by their gathering and interpretation of our data and their presentation back to us of what they deem relevant, newsworthy or trending.
Algorithms produce worlds rather than objectively account for them
We often don’t know the “warm human and institutional choices that lie behind these cold mechanisms” (Gillespie, 2012) and our efforts to do so are frustrated by information providers’ frequent tweaking and the algorithms’ own shifting nature as they are fed by our interaction with them.
Has the algorithm been conscripted for daemonic hegemonic practice or more innocently put to work for market forces? Is Google, as a major information provider, attempting to take over the world or (merely) seduced by its self-imposed heady mission to catalogue and present the world’s information (a misguided vocation, like Edward Casaubon’s in Middlemarch?), refusing to shoulder responsibility for the political and social consequences of doing so?
Mager (2014) comments,
… the capitalist ideology is inscribed in code and manifests in computational logics
Why do we comply?
An answer might be what I term acceptance creep. A commentator in the Privacy Paradox podcast warns,
In our shopping behaviour we are rehearsing the idea that it is ok to give up our data
We want to do the searching, the shopping, the socialising and the sharing without continually thinking of world issues. We want certainty and trust where there is none, so we accede to the demands of global capitalism, come to fill the post-human vacuum, because it suits us, too.
Mager (2014) describes a symbiotic relationship between Google (and other global IT corporations), content providers (website creators) and users:
This dynamic perfectly exemplifies Gramsci’s central moment in winning hegemony over hegemonized groups, the moment “in which one becomes aware that one’s own corporate interests […] become the interests of other subordinate groups” (Gramsci 2012, 181). It is the moment where “prosumers” start playing by the rules of transnational informational capitalism because Google (and other IT companies) serve their own purposes; a supposedly win-win situation is established. Prosumers are “steeped into” the ruling ideology to speak with Althusser: “All the agents of production, exploitation and repression, not to speak of the ‘professionals of ideology’ (Marx), must in one way or another be ‘steeped’ in this ideology in order to perform their tasks ‘conscientiously’ – the tasks of the exploited (the proletarians), of the exploiters (the capitalists), of the exploiters’ auxiliaries (the managers), or of the high priests of the ruling ideology (its ‘functionaries’), etc” (Althusser 1971).
If we are rehearsed (performing conscientiously) in our leisure and social lives, we will accept it, too, in our educational lives.
Knox, J. (2015). Algorithmic Cultures. Excerpt from Critical Education and Digital Cultures. In Encyclopedia of Educational Philosophy and Theory. M. A. Peters (ed.). DOI 10.1007/978-981-287-532-7_124-1
Mager, A. (2014) Defining Algorithmic Ideology: Using Ideology Critique to Scrutinize Corporate Search Engines. Triple C Journal for a Global Sustainable Information Society, 12(1).