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[Commlist] CfP Special Issue 'Algorithmic Antagonisms: Resistance, Reconfiguration, and Renaissance' for Computational Life
Wed Feb 10 22:40:03 GMT 2021
*Algorithmic Antagonisms: Resistance, Reconfiguration, and Renaissance
for Computational Life - Special Issue of Media International Australia*
In August 2020, the UK government’s black-boxed algorithm for deciding
students’ grades made headlines. It had allegedly lowered the results of
40% of students, most of which from lower-income schools, thus crushing
many students’ hopes for entering prestigious universities. Students
went out to the streets and protested, memorably chanting “Fuck the
algorithm!”. This recent case is just one of many that highlight a clear
need for critical and empirical attention on algorithms and the work
that they do, given their increasing importance in shaping
social and economic life. There has been important work through critical
studies that catalogue the multifaceted domination of algorithmic
life and points of liberatory design out of it (Eubanks 2018,
Costanza-Chock 2020), while recognising epistemological cleavages
between powers of critique and scientific practice (Moats and Seaver
2019) in the seemingly impenetrable nature of “black boxed” algorithmic
life (Pasquale 2015). Much critical scholarship tied to algorithms
focuses on the ills of algorithms, or the ways in which a normativity
can be developed around an ethical, equitable or fair expression of
computation via design (see ACM FAccT). Other responses include
consideration of critical practices that advance data science in ways
that identify and create social and organizational arrangements
necessary for a more ethical data science (Neff et al. 2017) or move
towards data justice (Dencik et al. 2019, Taylor 2017, Johnson 2014) to
offer equity as design goals. Yet Critical Data Practices are also
taking an antagonistic turn, focussing on ways to actively employ
algorithms for everyday, social, and political agency, influence, or
This turn adjusts to reframe algorithms from governing black boxes to
deployed tools that ‘mediate emerging distributions of power often too
nascent [or] disconcerting to directly acknowledge’ (Thomas et al. 2018:
1). It considers posthumanist assemblages of humans,
code, and technological artefacts that shape reality (Kalpokas 2019),
but also includes what is missing from previous theorisation of
algorithms – namely moving past acknowledging various normative
relations to enabling a tactical use (Raley 2009). That is to say,
lessons from tactical media seem to be more applicable than ever in
constantly shifting datalogical ground (Treré 2018; Velkova and Kaun
2019). To this end, this issue in part considers how critical histories
of tactical media juxtapose structures of algorithmic life, and what
might be done to leverage what was once dark towards antagonistic
algorithmic light (Ochigame, 2020). Emergent examples reconfigure
algorithms into networked media tools that act as vanguards against
extant structures, with equity as a secondary concern. Algorithms are
being deployed to radical and subersive action including automatically
suing robocallers and contesting civil fines (DoNotPay); war crimes
investigation via computer vision (VFrame, Forensic Architecture);
gaming Google’s AdWords to point to sex-worker chat bots (Seattle
Against Slavery); writing to MIDI all possible melodies and ‘releasing’
these through Creative Commons; or simply actively messing with
Facebook’s feedback mechanisms to alter newsfeeds.
Hence, this issue asks: what are the ways in which algorithms are being
deployed tactically to provocative ends? And, just as importantly, are
these sustainable as activist or political practice? This issue will
consider these trends and surrounding issues in order to introduce new
ways of thinking about algorithmic politics in tactical and discrete
terms. It hopes to open critical data and algorithm studies in ways that
might reconfigure how critical scholarship approaches the algorithm in
tactical terms as networked media tools that are antagonistic. We ask
for submissions that consider the design of algorithms not as finished
solutions that structure the world, but as something troubling - in a
meaningful and helpful way - that might better inform our understanding
of the capacities and limits of algorithmic life.
We are particularly looking forward to critical engagements with
algorithmic practice, which may include feminist theory,
de/post-colonial theory, critical race theory, queer theory, indigenous
theory, perspectives from the Global South, and others.
*The issue looks to submissions including but not limited to…* -
Agonistic and antagonistic algorithm design - Algorithms as culture
(and critical responses to algorithmic culture) - Algorithmic practice
of the everyday - Activist algorithmic science and practice -
Adversarial algorithmic externalities - Standpoint data justice -
Tactical algorithmic media - Forms of algorithmic
resistance and antagonistic algorithm design in the Global South -
Applied evolutionary computation - Feminist and antirracist algorithmic
theory and practice - Disaffected technologies and technologists -
Artistic forms of response to algorithmic culture - Antagonism of
digital, algorithmic, and tech labourers
28 February 2021: Abstracts (400-500 words) due for submission to guest
21 March 2021: Invitation to submit full papers sent to selected
authors, with feedback on abstracts as applicable
31 July 2021: Full papers sent by authors for Peer Review
15 October 2021: Peer review returned to authors
(Up to) 30 Jan 2021: Final papers due for those papers that have
passed/responded to review.
May 2022: Special Issue comes out on MIA
*Editors*: Luke Heemsbergen ((luke.h /at/ deakin.edu.au)
<mailto:(luke.h /at/ deakin.edu.au)>), Emiliano Treré ((TrereE /at/ cardiff.ac.uk)
<mailto:(TrereE /at/ cardiff.ac.uk)>), & Gabriel Pereira ((gpereira /at/ cc.au.dk)
<mailto:(gpereira /at/ cc.au.dk)>)
Costanza-Chock, Sasha. (2020) “Design justice”, MIT Press.
Dencik, L., Hintz, A., Redden, J., & Treré, E. (2019). Exploring data
justice: Conceptions, applications and directions.
Eubanks, V. (2018). Automating inequality: How high-tech tools profile,
police, and punish the poor. St. Martin’s Press.
Johnson, J. A. (2014). From open data to information justice.
Ethics and Information Technology, 16(4), 263-274.
Kalpokas I. (2019) Agency and the Posthuman Shape of Law. In:
Algorithmic Governance. Palgrave Pivot, Cham
Moats, D., & Seaver, N. (2019). “You Social Scientists Love Mind Games”:
Experimenting in the “divide” between data science and critical
algorithm studies. Big Data & Society, 6(1), 2053951719833404.
Neff, G., Tanweer, A., Fiore-Gartland, B., & Osburn, L. (2017).
Critique and contribute: A practice-based framework for improving
critical data studies and data science. Big data, 5(2), 85-97.
Ochigame, R. (2020). Informatics of the Oppressed. Logic, 11. Retrieved
Pasquale, F. (2015). The black box society. Harvard University Press.
Raley, R. (2009). Tactical media. U of Minnesota Press.
Thomas, S. L., Nafus, D., & Sherman, J. (2018). Algorithms as fetish:
Faith and possibility in algorithmic work. Big Data & Society, 5(1).
Taylor, L. (2017). What is data justice? The case for connecting digital
rights and freedoms globally. Big Data & Society, 4(2).
Treré, E. (2018). From digital activism to algorithmic resistance. In:
Meikle, G. ed. The Routledge Companion to Media and Activism.
London and New York: Routledge, pp. 367-375.
Velkova, J., & Kaun, A. (2019). Algorithmic resistance: media
practices and the politics of repair. Information, Communication &
*Art for this CfP* by Gabriel Pereira, inspired by Willys de Castro’s
“Pintura M-111” (1956) and created with p5.js.
You can also read the CfP on the Media International Australia site.
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