Deconstructing the Algorithmic Sublime
Morgan G. Ames. “Deconstructing the Algorithmic Sublime.” Big Data and Society, 5:1 (2018), special theme on Algorithms in Culture.
This special theme contextualizes, examines, and ultimately works to dispel the feelings of “sublime”—of awe and terror that overrides rational thought—that much of the contemporary public discourse on algorithms encourages. Employing critical, reflexive, and ethnographic techniques, these authors show that while algorithms can take on a multiplicity of different cultural meanings, they ultimately remain closely connected to the people who define and deploy them, and the institutions and power relations in which they are embedded. Building on a conversation we began at the Algorithms in Culture conference at U.C. Berkeley in December 2016, we collectively study algorithms as culture (Seaver, this special theme), fetish (Thomas et al.), imaginary (Christin), bureaucratic logic (Caplan and boyd), method of governance (Coletta and Kitchin; Lee; Geiger), mode of inquiry (Baumer), and mode of power (Kubler).