Critical Algorithm Studies: a Reading List by Tarleton Gillespie and Nick Seaver from Social Media Collective at Microsoft Research


Technical and Philosophical Precursors / emic “what are algorithms?” essays

Kowalski, Robert. 1979. “Algorithm = Logic + Control.” Communications of the ACM 22(7): 424-436.

Hooker, J.N. 1994. “Needed: An Empirical Science of Algorithms.” Operations Research 42(2): 201-212.

Andreas Blass and Yuri Gurevich (2003), Algorithms: A Quest for Absolute Definitions, Bulletin of European Association for Theoretical Computer Science 81, 2003.

Yuri Gurevich, Sequential Abstract State Machines Capture Sequential Algorithms, ACM Transactions on Computational Logic, Vol 1, no 1 (July 2000), pages 77–111.

Gurevich, Yuri. 2011. “What is an Algorithm?” Technical Report MSR-TR-2011-116, Microsoft Research.

Gurevich, Yuri. 2014. “What is an Algorithm? (revised)” In Church’s Thesis: Logic, Mind and Nature (eds. A. Olszewski et al.) Copernicus Center Press.

Moschovakis, Yiannis N. 2001. “What is an algorithm?” In Mathematics Unlimited — 2001 and beyond. Edited by B. Engquist and W. Schmid. Springer: 919-936.

Sadowski, J. (2015). “From Mega-Machines to Mega-Algorithms.” The New Inquiry, April 28:

Field surveys / Keywords / Initial Provocations

Seaver, Nick. 2013. “Knowing Algorithms.” In Media in Transition 8. Cambridge, MA.

Gillespie, Tarleton. 2014. “The Relevance of Algorithms.” In Media Technologies: Essays on Communication, Materiality, and Society, edited by Tarleton Gillespie, Pablo Boczkowski, and Kirsten Foot, 167-194. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Mahnke, Martina and Emma Uprichard. 2014 “Algorithming the Algorithm.” In Society of the Query Reader: Reflections on Web Search. René König and Miriam Rasch, eds. Amsterdam: Institute of Network Cultures.

Striphas, Ted. 2015. “Algorithmic Culture.” European Journal of Cultural Studies 18(4-5): 395-412.

Gillespie, Tarleton. forthcoming. “Algorithm.” In Digital Keywords, edited by Ben Peters. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.

Lists of Algorithm Studies Resources

“Governing Algorithms” (NYU) reading list:

“Algorithm Studies” (UCHRI) literature survey:

The specific implications of algorithms and the choices they make

(politics of artifacts / values in design approach)

Algorithms have embedded values / biases and lead to personalization / social sorting / discrimination

(concerned about: designer intent vs unaware, how did it get there, where are the effects felt, are they visible to the affected)

Introna, Lucas D., and Helen Nissenbaum. 2000. “Shaping the Web: Why the Politics of Search Engines Matters.” The Information Society 16(3): 169-185.

Introna, Lucas D., and David Wood. 2002. ‘‘Picturing Algorithmic Surveillance: The Politics of Facial Recognition Systems.’’ Surveillance & Society 2 (2/3): 177-98

Graham, Stephen D. N. 2005. ‘‘Software-sorted Geographies.’’ Progress in Human Geography 29 (5): 562-580.

Granka, Laura A. 2010. “The Politics of Search: A Decade Retrospective.” The Information Society 26 (5): 364-74.

Ananny, Mike. 2011. “The Curious Connection Between Apps for Gay Men and Sex Offenders.” The Atlantic. April 14.

Anderson, Chris W. 2011. “Deliberative, Agonistic, and Algorithmic Audiences: Journalism’s Vision of Its Public in an Age of Audience Transparency.” International Journal of Communication 5: 19.

Noble, Safiya. 2012. “Missed Connections: What Search Engines Say about Women. Bitch magazine, 12(4): 37-41.

Lenglet, Marc. 2013. “Algorithms and the Manufacture of Financial Reality”. In Harvey, P., Casella, E., Evans, G., Knox, H., McLean, C., Silva, E., Thoburn, N. and Woodward, K. (eds), Objects and Materials. A Routledge Companion. London, Routledge, 312-322.

McKelvey, Fenwick. 2014. “Algorithmic Media Need Democratic Methods: Why Publics Matter.” Canadian Journal of Communication 39(4): 597+.

Benthall, Sebastian. 2015.“Designing Networked Publics for Communicative Action.” Interface 1(1): 1-30.

Tufekci, Zeynep. 2015. “Algorithmic Harms beyond Facebook and Google: Emergent Challenges of Computational Agency” Colorado Technology Law Journal. v13 n2

Bolin, Göran & Jonas Andersson Schwarz 2015. ‘Heuristics of the Algorithm. Big Data, User Interpretation and Translation Strategies’, Big Data & Society, July-Dec 2015: 1-12.

With algorithms, come rationalization / automation / quantification, and the erasure of human judgment / complexity / context

Pasquinelli, Matteo. 2009. “Google’s PageRank algorithm: a diagram of cognitive capitalism and the rentier of the common intellect” in Deep Search: The Politics of Search beyond Google. London: Transaction Publishers.

Wilf, Eitan. 2013. “Toward an Anthropology of Computer-Mediated, Algorithmic Forms of Sociality.” Current Anthropology 54(6): 716-739.

Kockelman, Paul. 2013. “The anthropology of an equation. Sieves, spam filters, agentive algorithms, and ontologies of transformation.” Hau 3(3).

Grosser, Benjamin. 2014. “What Do Metrics Want? How Quantification Prescribes Social Interaction on Facebook.” Computational Culture.

Napoli, Philip M. 2014. “On Automation in Media Industries: Integrating Algorithmic Media Production into Media Industries Scholarship.” Media Industries 1(1).

Kockelman, Paul. 2014. “Linguistic anthropology in the age of language automata.” The Cambridge Handbook of Linguistic Anthropology. Cambridge University Press, 708-733.,%20CHLA.pdf

McQuillan, Daniel. 2015. “Algorithmic States of Exception.” European Journal of Cultural Studies 18(4/5).

Pasquale, Frank. 2015. “The Algorithmic Self.” 17(1) The Hedgehog Review.

Questions of accountability and policy responses around algorithms

McKelvey, Fenwick. 2010. “Ends and Ways: The Algorithmic Politics of Network Neutrality.” Global Media Journal: Canadian Edition 3(1): 51-73.

Crawford, Kate, and Jason Schultz. 2014. “Big Data and Due Process: Toward a Framework to Redress Predictive Privacy Harms.” Boston College Law Review, 55(1): 93+.

Diakopoulos, Nicholas. 2013. ‘‘Algorithmic Accountability Reporting: On the Investigation of Black Boxes.’’ A Tow/Knight Brief. New York: Columbia Journalism School, Tow Center for Digital Journalism.

O’Reilly, Tim. 2013. ‘‘Open Data and Algorithmic Regulation.’’ In Beyond Transparency: Open Data and the Future of Civic Innovation, edited by Brett Goldstein, 289-300. San Francisco, CA: Code for America Press.

Benjamin, S.M. (2013). “Algorithms and Speech.” University of Pennsylvania Law Review 161(6): 1445-1494.

boyd, danah, Karen Levy, and Alice Marwick. 2014. “The Networked Nature of Algorithmic Discrimination.” Open Technology Institute.

Data & Society Research Institute. 2014 “Workshop Primer: Algorithmic Accountability”

Schuppli, Susan. 2014. “Deadly Algorithms: Can legal codes hold software accountable for code that kills?” Radical Philosophy 187: 1-8.

Diakopoulos, Nicholas. 2015. ‘‘Algorithmic Accountability.’’ Digital Journalism 3 (3): 398-415.

Robotics: Ethics of artificial intelligence

I Know Why You Went to the Clinic: Risks and Realization of HTTPS Traffic Analysis

What Can an Algorithm Do?

Algorithms fit with, and help advance, specific ideological worldviews

(critical theory approach, (including capitalism, surveillance, subject/object)

Deleuze, Gilles. 1992. “Postscript on the Societies of Control.” October 59: 3-7.

Van Couvering, Elizabeth. 2004. “New Media? The Political Economy of Internet Search Engines.” In Annual Conference of the International Association of Media & Communications Researchers, Porto Alegre, Brazil, 25-30.

Mager, Astrid. 2012. “Algorithmic Ideology: How Capitalist Society Shapes Search Engines.” Information, Communication & Society. 15(5) 769-787.

Snake-Beings, Emit. 2013. “From Ideology to Algorithm: the Opaque Politics of the Internet” Transformations: Journal of Media and Culture 23.

Kaplan, Frederic. 2014. “Linguistic Capitalism and Algorithmic Mediation.” Representations 127(1), 57-63.

Algorithms are complex technical assemblages, that have to be mapped

(actor network -ish)

Rieder, Bernhard. 2015. “What Is in PageRank? A Historical and Conceptual Investigation of a Recursive Status Index.” Computational Culture.

Ziewitz, Malte. 2011. How to think about an algorithm? Notes from a not quite random walk. Discussion paper for Symposium on “Knowledge Machines between Freedom and Control”, 29 September.

Miyazaki, Shintaro. 2012. “Algorhythmics: Understanding Micro-Temporality in Computational Cultures.” Computational Culture.

Helmond, Anne. 2013. “The Algorithmization of the Hyperlink.” Computational Culture 3(3).

Geiger, R. Stuart. 2014. “Bots, Bespoke, Code and the Materiality of Software Platforms.” Information, Communication & Society 17 (3): 342–56.

Mackenzie, Donald. 2014. “A Sociology of Algorithms: High-Frequency Trading and the Shaping of Markets” working paper.

Muniesa, Fabian. 2014 “Discovering stock prices” in The Provoked Economy: Economic Reality and the Performative Turn. London: Routledge.

Algorithms aren’t just technical artifacts, they’re fundamentally human in their design and their use

(social construction of technical systems approach / anthropology and ethnographic instinct)

Diakopolous, Nick. 2013. “Sex, Violence, and Autocomplete Algorithms” Slate. August 2.

Bogost, Ian. 2015. ‘‘The Cathedral of Computation.’’ The Atlantic, January 15.

People work, play, and live algorithms, in specific ways, and that matters

(mediated cultural practices approach)

Beunza, Daniel and Yuval Millo “Blended Automation: Integrating Algorithms on the Floor of the New York Stock Exchange.” Working paper.

Ekbia, Hamid and Bonnie Nardi. 2014. “Heteromation and Its (Dis)contents: the Invisible Division of Labor Between Humans and Machines.” First Monday 19(6).

Geiger, R. Stuart. 2011. “The Lives of Bots.” In Wikipedia: A Critical Point of View. Geert Lovink and Nathaniel Tkacz, eds. Amsterdam: Institute of Network Cultures.

Gillespie, Tarleton. 2012. “Can an Algorithm Be Wrong?” Limn 1(2).

What do users understand about algorithms

Hamilton, Kevin, Karrie Karahalios, Christian Sandvig, and Motahhare Eslami. 2014. “A Path to Understanding the Effects of Algorithm Awareness.” In , 631–42. ACM Press.

The discursive production of algorithms to shape their public perception

Sandvig, Christian. 2015. “Seeing the Sort: The Aesthetic and Industrial Defense of ‘The Algorithm.’” Journal of the New Media Caucus

Methods and approaches for studying algorithmic systems

Marres, Noortje. 2012. “The redistribution of methods: on intervention in digital social research, broadly conceived.” The Sociological Review, 60(S1): 139-165.

Diakopolous, Nick. (2013) “Rage against the Algorithms” The Atlantic, October 3.

Sandvig, Christian, Kevin Hamilton, Karrie Karahalios, and Cedric Langbort. 2014. “Auditing Algorithms: Research Methods for Detecting Discrimination on Internet Platforms.” Data and Discrimination: Converting Critical Concerns into Productive Inquiry, 64th Annual Meeting of the International Communication Association. May 22, 2014, Seattle, WA, USA.–%20Sandvig%20–%20ICA%202014%20Data%20and%20Discrimination%20Preconference.pdf

Sandvig, C., Hamilton, K., Karahalios, K., & Langbort, C. (2014). “An Algorithm Audit.” In: Seeta Peña Gangadharan (ed.), Data and Discrimination: Collected Essays, pp. 6-10. Washington, DC: New America Foundation.