The AlgoCult project supported a research network for the study of the adoption, use and implications of algorithms in the digitalization of the public sector. Algorithms and automated decision making are presented to the public as a way to open up the processes of knowledge production to citizens, for instance by promoting transparency and accountability. Despite this rhetoric, there is an increasing awareness of the risks associated with the use of algorithms. They are not neutral tools but carry specific intentions and biases, and they filter what can be seen and create novel ways of perceiving the world. The project has aimed to build a research network and sensitize the researchers' and practitioners' communities by promoting a critical research agenda to study how algorithmic cultures are formed in practice, and how these transform the public sector. The project has organized seminars, workshops and events to bring together scholars with the aim to share knowledge and develop novel conceptual resources to unpack processes of digitalization in the public sector. The project had an interdisciplinary nature at the intersection of the humanities and computer science.
The project activities have contributed to establish an interdisciplinary research network with participants from Norwegian Universities, University Colleges and international partners. The network is an arena for sharing knowledge, building collaborations and for developing a novel interdisciplinary approach to critically study Algorithmic Cultures as they emerge in our society. The network addresses the need to unpack such phenomena from different angles simultaneously in order to grasp the interplay of their technical, cultural, political, and scientific meanings and consequences. By organizing seminars and workshops open to the different communities, the project has also contributed to a greater awareness about the theme among researchers, students, and the practitioners that have been involved. This is central also in relation to the current societal debate and policy development on the ethics of AI.
The project addresses the emergence of algorithmic cultures of decision making in the context of the digitalization of the public sector. Despite the promise for opening up the process of knowledge production to the public, there is an increasing awareness of the risks associated with forms of technocratic governance which assume that complex societal problems can be treated as technical problems and addressed by technical solutions. However, algorithms should not be seen as neutral calculative devices. Rather, digital technologies and the algorithms they embed, filter what can be seen, create novel ways of perceiving the world and new visibilities and invisibilities. Such concerns require nuanced theorizing that builds on insight into both the technological basis and the application domain. We seek to develop empirical research and conceptual resources by bringing together an interdisciplinary team of researchers from the humanities (Science and Technology Studies, History of Science, Cultural Studies, and Philosophy of Science and Technology) and computer science (Information Systems Research, Computer Supported Collaborative Work, Participatory Design) who are interested to explore issues and perspectives of algorithmic cultures.