Accountable machines: bureaucratic cybernetics?

Alison Powell, Assistant Professor at LSE, argues that the accountability of algorithms is intrinsically linked to governance structures and citizenship in society. Algorithms should be used to support decision-making for the benefit of society rather than to target individual consumers. Algorithms are everywhere, or so we are told, and the black boxes of algorithmic decision-making make oversight of processes that regulators and activists argue ought to to be transparent more difficult than in the past. But when, and where, and which machines do we wish to make accountable, and for what purpose? In this post I discuss how algorithms discussed by scholars are most commonly those at work on media platforms whose main products are the social networks and attention of individuals. Algorithms, in this case, construct individual identities through patterns…

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