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The social life of algorithms: Shaping, and being shaped by, our world

By Andi Horvath

Informatics researcher Professor Paul Dourish explains how algorithms, as more than mere technical objects, guide our social lives and organization, and are themselves evolving products of human social actions.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.


I'm Dr Andi Horvath. Thanks for joining us. Today we bring you Up Close to one of the very things that shapes our modern lives. No, not the technology as such, but what works in the background to drive it: the algorithm, the formalised set of rules governing how our technology is meant to behave.

As we'll hear, algorithms both enable us to use technology and to be used by it. Algorithms are designed by humans and just like the underpinnings of other technologies, say like drugs, we don't always know exactly how they work. They serve a function but they can have side-effects and unexpectedly interact with other things with curious or disastrous results.
Today, machine learning means that algorithms are interacting with, or developing other algorithms, without human input. So how is it that they can have a life of their own? To take us Up Close to the elusive world of algorithms is our guest, Paul Dourish, a Professor of Informatics in the Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Science at UC Irvine. Paul has written extensively on the intersection of computer science and social science and is in Melbourne as a visiting Miegunyah Fellow. Hello, and welcome to Up...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.