Algorithms may now be our most important knowledge technologies, “the scientific instruments of a society at large,” (Gitelman) and they are increasingly vital to how we organize human social interaction, produce authoritative knowledge, and choreograph our participation in public life. Search engines, recommendation systems, edge algorithms on social networking sites, and “trend” identification algorithms: these not only help us find information, they provide a means to know what there is to know and to participate in social and political discourse. In this talk Tarleton Gillespie will highlight one particular dimension of these algorithms, their production of calculated publics: algorithmically produced snapshots of the “public” around us and what most concerns it. Understanding the calculations and motivations behind the production of these calculated publics helps highlight how these algorithms are relevant to our collective efforts to know and be known.
Tarleton Gillespie is an associate professor at Cornell University, in the Department of Communication and the Department of Information Science. This semester he is a visiting researcher with Microsoft Research, New England. He is the co-editor of Media Technologies: Essays on Communication, Materiality, and Society (2014), and the author of Wired Shut: Copyright and the Shape of Digital Culture (2007), and the co-founder of the scholarly blog at culturedigitally.org.