Video – 0:24:13

Report Session for the seminar Algorithmic Intermediation and Smartness

Anthropocene Curriculum
Campus: The Technosphere Issue
2016, Apr 14, Thu — 2016, Apr 22, Fr

Reportsession for the seminar: "Algorithmic Intermediation and Smartness" - Rapporteur: Barbara Rauch, Moderation: Robert Mitchell

What forms of futurity, speculation, and life do algorithmic intermediations produce? To explore this it seems expedient to focus on “smartness,” a term legitimating—as in the “smart home”—the increased introduction
of computation in social life.
This seminar explores the Anthropocene—and the possibility it will lead to the “technocene,” in which technology itself becomes a geological force, operating at scales and temporalities beyond human cognition or direct control—through two related concepts: “intermediation” and “smartness.” Intermediation is the activity of connecting people with common or complementary interests: e.g., in the traditional economy, banks intermediate between lenders and borrowers. With the advent of the Internet, new intermediation services have emerged, such as search engines and social networks. Intermediation is ensured by algorithms, which “decide” what is relevant for people. Even as algorithms aim to satisfy users, they also optimize for other parameters, such as establishing a uniform balance between supply and demand. Intermediation also enables sharing of resources, crowdsourcing, and crowdfunding by making people aware of potential consumers or producers of services. To explore the contemporary architecture of algorithmic intermediation, we focus on “smartness,” which has risen to prominence as a catchall term legitimating sensor and “big data” analytics to facilitate the algorithmic intermediation among humans, technologies, and the environment. “Smartness” has come to take on a morally virtuous connotation as a purportedly necessary, even mandatory, set of practices by which to sustain or preserve human life in the face of environmental security, and financial insecurities. Much of this discourse is driven by corporations, as evidenced by the popularity of company tags such as IBM’s recent corporate slogans (“Think Smart”; “Smarter Planet”), and products such as the “smart phone” and the “smart home,” and “smart cities,” all of which aim to integrate environmentally responsible practices, optimize consumer behavior, and operate as technologies of cybernetic governance.

Anthropocene Curriculum | Campus: The Technosphere Issue, 100 Years of Now 2016

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