13 SES 04 B, Choice, Evaluative Judgments, and Algorithmic Architecture
More than 40 years ago, in 1977, referring to computers used in home automation at the dawn of the home computer era, Ken Olsen, co-founder and CEO of the Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) is quoted as saying, that “there is no reason for any individual to have a computer in his home”. While the first computers were technological behemoths, the devices have experienced a rapid development and become natural objects in our homes, work places and even in our pockets in the shape of smartphones. Computers have evolved in their material appearance and their complexity, so has the computer code that is running on it.
Software and the algorithmic architecture can be seen as the holistic link that brings the wide variety of digital technologies together, it constitutes the Internet, a network of extremely different social, cultural and technology networks and emerging from that basis. However, the emergent digitalization as a result of these technological advances is fundamentally different from the earlier stages of development in the manner how it integrates individual modes of perception and practices into existing social relationships (see Chun 2016). The digitalization pervades social spaces and intimacy in previously unknown dimensions (see Stalder 2018). At the same time, it has impact on the understanding of a public, the common and how individuals perceive the world. As digital networked technologies become ubiquitous, they become invisible at the same time. This paradoxical structure raises several questions, that are particularly interesting in the light of education.
Following the outlined phenomena and problems, the topic of this paper is to discuss the visibility of the “programmed visions” (see Chun 2011) and its implications for education. Based on the findings of my dissertation, I want to address the relation of visibility and underlying technological processes that are hidden on daily basis by focusing on the conception of self through the Hegelian understanding of ‘Bildung’ which is tied to the idea of self and self-consciousness.
Based on the findings in my dissertation (see Verständig 2017), the research interest addresses the structural impact of the digitization and its consequences for the concept of self under contemporary circumstances, what can be summarized in the following two research questions:
- How can philosophical theory help to gain a better understanding of algorithmic structures and the implications for the individual’s perception of the world?
- What description models can be established to discuss the complexity of digital technology and self in the field of education?
The paper explores different theoretical approaches to the complexity of algorithms and self, following these three steps: First, there will be a brief discussion on how agonistic theories (see Mouffe 2000, 2014; Crawford 2015) can be utilized to gain a better understanding of the digital in contrast to a consensus-oriented approach in particular (see Habermas 1990; Benkler 2006). This initial step will be taken, to consolidate a deeper understanding of negotiation and social interaction online and their relation to algorithmic architectures by emphasizing a structural perspective. In a second step, the key aspects and findings on negotiation and social interaction online are referred to a self-world relation, considering Hegel’s thoughts on self and self-consciousness. Finally, in a third step, these considerations are summarized. The contribution of the paper is primarily a conceptual one; it provides a theoretical and philosophical discussion of some of the assumptions underlying the digitization and its impact on education.
Understanding algorithmic architectures and the corresponding hardware as underlying infrastructure, that is mostly hidden or invisible in daily usage (see Pasquale 2015), it might be rewarding to ask for the structural impact the digital technologies have and how it affects the individual’s relation of self and world. This is particular interesting considering the algorithmic architectures not only as given surroundings, but rather alterable and reconfigurable dependencies. They can be altered through tinkering, hacking and exploiting. Despite the idea of a basically neutral technology, computational systems are always designed and engineered by humans that implement their conception of the world and cultural mindsets. Possibilities of deliberation and social interaction are basically already encoded into the digital architecture and thus following highly dependent on the interfaces we use on a daily basis, to interact with and through which meaning is being constructed.
Benkler, Y. (2006). The wealth of networks: How social production transforms markets and freedom. New Haven Conn.: Yale University press. Chun, W. H. K. (2011). Programmed visions: Software and memory. Software studies. Cambridge, Mass und London, England: MIT Press. Chun, W. H. K. (2016). Updating to Remain the Same: Habitual New Media. Cambridge, Mass und London, England: MIT Press. Crawford, K. (2015). “Can an Algorithm be Agonistic? Ten Scenes from Life in Calculated Publics”. In: Science, technology, et human values 41.1, S. 77–92. Habermas, J. (1990). Strukturwandel der Öffentlichkeit: Untersuchungen zu einer Kategorie der bürgerlichen Gesellschaft. 2. Aufl. Bd. 891. Suhrkamp-Taschenbuch Wissenschaft. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp. Hegel, G. W. F. (1986). Phänomenologie des Geistes: Theorie-Werkausgabe [TWA]: Edited. by Eva Moldenhauer, Karl Markus Michel. Bd. 603. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp. Mouffe, C. (2000). The democratic paradox. Phronesis. London: Verso. Mouffe, C. (2014). Agonistik: Die Welt politisch denken. Orig.-Ausg., 1. Aufl. Bd. 2677. Edition Suhrkamp. Berlin: Suhrkamp. Pasquale, F. (2015). The black box society: The secret algorithms that control money and information. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. Stalder, F. (2018). The digital condition. Cambridge, UK; Medford, MA, USA: Polity Press. Verständig, D. (2017). Bildung und Öffentlichkeit – Eine strukturtheoretische Perspektive auf Bildung im Horizont digitaler Medialität. Magdeburg: Universität, Diss.
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