Cornell University
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Malte Ziewitz, November 19th, 2014

Wednesday, November 19, 2014 - 4:00pm to 5:15pm
Athreya Conference Room (Rm 310)

Please join us for the Information Science Colloquium with guest, Malte Ziewitz. Malte Ziewitz is an Assistant Professor of Science & Technology Studies at Cornell University. Broadly based in STS, ethnography, and public policy, his research revolves around issues of governance, accountability, and evaluation in digitally networked environments. His recent work explores evaluative practice in healthcare and search engine optimization (SEO); algorithmic ordering; the history and performativity of internet governance; and computational approaches to privacy. As Principal Investigator, he headed the ESRC-funded "How's My Feedback?" project, a collaborative design experiment to rethink and evaluate online review and rating websites ( Malte holds a DPhil from Oxford University, an MPA from Harvard University, and a First State Exam in Law from the University of Hamburg.

Title: A Not Quite Random Walk, Steps Towards a Mundane Sociology of Algorithms

Abstract: Algorithms have become somewhat of a modern myth. The subject of media reports, congressional hearings, TED talks, and increasingly sociological study, they tend to be portrayed as powerful entities that shape, sort, rule, govern, or otherwise control our lives. Yet, despite a growing literature on algorithms and their social implications, such theorizing often ends up further mystifying the phenomenon. What counts as an “algorithm”? And what exactly is it that “they” do? In this talk, I will turn algorithms into a topic of sociological inquiry and report on a hands-on (or rather: feet-on) experiment: an algorithmic walk through the City of Oxford. The experiment opens up new ways of thinking about the role of “algorithms” in practical reasoning. It also draws attention to the mundane interactions required to make an algorithm work outside its native computer science.