Berlin, 29 Jan. All Watched Over by Algorithms

January 23rd, 2015

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Abstract of my talk at Transmediale 2015

Anomaly Detection: The Mathematization of the Abnormal in the Society of Metadata

Algorithmic vision is about the understanding of vast amount of data according to a specific vector: it may be about common patterns of behavior in social media, suspicious keywords in surveillance networks, buying and selling tendencies in stock markets or the oscillation of temperature in a specific region of the planet. The eye of the algorithm blindly records emerging properties and forecasts tendencies out of large data set. Such procedures of computation are pretty repetitive and robotic and they generally operate along two main functions: pattern recognition and anomaly detection. The two epistemic poles of pattern and anomaly are the two sides of the same coin of algorithmic governance. An unexpected anomaly can be detected only against the ground of a pattern regularity. And conversely a pattern emerges only through the median equalization of different tendencies. Here mathematics starts to resound immediately as a new epistemology of power.

Full text → here.


All Watched Over by Algorithms

The panel sheds light on the misconceptions and obfuscated parts of what can be framed as algorithmic governance. Do we already live in a society ruled by algorithms? As data and metadata, sensors and apps, numbers and patterns play an important role in the perception and experience of our everyday reality, it is clear that we are heading towards this direction with an accelerating pace. The same way newsfeeds affect our thought and behaviour online, tracking systems influence our habits and moves. But how aware can we be of the filtering and the processes that the computational logic allows? The new demographics of the era of noopolitics provide a new form of governmentality based on new modes of regulation, normalisation and control that can be subtle and soft. On the pretext of self-care and self-optimisation, the new society of metadata pays more attention to the desired outcome than to the reasons or politics lying behind. Aiming to discuss how algorithms have come to rule societies, the panel will shed light on some of the misconceptions and obfuscated parts of what can be framed as algorithmic governance. Connecting today’s condition to the field of cybernetics, the thought of Foucault or the current discussion on the Anthropocene, the speakers will point towards different theoretical and cognitive perspectives that can be used in a datafying world.

Felix Stalder, Matteo Pasquinelli, Antoinette Rouvroy, Evgeny Morozov

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