I’m very happy that my BD&S special issue article is online now! It’s called “European Search? How to counter-imagine and counteract hegemonic search with European search engine projects” – it was a bit of a tough nut since critiquing big tech and their sociotechnical imaginaries appears to be much easier than thinking about (and realizing!) alternative technologies and their counter-imaginaries. And that’s exactly why we need to shift our attention from dominant, often corporate imaginaries towards alternative tech and their counter-imaginaries of digital futures – especially in the European context where notions of value-based Europe are strongly pushed in EU policy rhetoric, but remain empty catchphrases often times. To sum up, I’m proud that this article is out now & I would love to hear what you guys think about it!!
Look at this! Our special issue in Big Data & Society (co-edited by Cristian Norocel, Richard Rogers, and me) on The State of Google Critique and Intervention has started to fill up with an excellent commentary by Bernhard Rieder titled Towards a Political Economy of Technical Systems: The Case of Google. Stay tuned, there is more to come in the next weeks!!
Thanks to Matt Zook for his valuable help throughout the publication process! & Olof Sundin & Alison Gerber for the Search Symposium they organized in Lund (2021), where the idea for the special issue was initially born! Thanks also to the Institute of Technology Assessment for co-organizing the writing workshop in Vienna (2022) and the Austrian Science Fund (FWF) for funding the event (and the project Algorithmic Imaginaries in the first place).
In Austria, we’re diving through the “4th Corona wave” right now including a hard lockdown. Yet again, I’m sitting in my home (office) with the kids on my lap in case more than two school kids get infected in the same class. The responsibility has been fully shifted onto teachers, parents, and their kids by now. Politics has given up on the Covid-management of schools, as it seems. In the middle of this chaos, I’m enthusiastically thinking back to my (real!) trip to Lund two months ago. Olof Sundin and Alison Gerber invited me to give a keynote lecture at the interdisciplinary symposium In Search of Search (and its Engines). This workshop was a kind of gathering of pioneering search engine scholars that accompany me since my PhD (more than 15 years now). I finally met Elizabeth van Couvering, for example, whose work on the commercialization of Google and the creation of its business model based on the “traffic commodity” had a great impact on my PhD research. Also, Richard Rogers, Dirk Lewandowski, Jutta Haider, and other great scholars were there and it was FUN! (and not only because of the real food & drinks!) The best part is that we keep the lively debates about search engines, search engine research, and its academic & sociopolitical impact alive. We’re currently working on a special issue for Big Data & Society called The State of Google Critique and Intervention co-edited by Ov Cristian Norocel, Richard Rogers, and myself. We’re planning a workshop and a public event in Vienna (12 April 2022), which I love to organize in the middle of this 4th wave as a possibility to work towards a light at the end of the tunnel.. 😉 So stay tuned!
Moreover, almost as an exception to the rule, I attended a great 4S online session this year: Wiring digital justice: Embedding rights in Internet governance by infrastructure organized by Stefania Milan, Niels ten Oever, and Francesca Musiani. Despite the shitty online platform the conference was running on, the session organizers managed to trigger fruitful discussions by providing thoughtful comments after each of the presentations. My paper was titled “Encoding Freedom: Analysis of open search technology between German hacker ethics and Asian start-up culture” and triggered debates about Chinese tech development and the “metrics of freedom” that I’m still thinking about – now that I finally have time to analyze my rich empirical materials on open source communities and other alternative search projects.
Doris Allhutter und ich haben einen Beitrag für den Blog “Arbeit und Wirtschaft” zu unserer Studie zum sogenannten “AMS-Algorithmus” verfasst (auf dt.). Der Blog Post ist hier online abrufbar; die Studie (gemeinsam mit Florian Cech, Fabian Fischer und Gabriel Grill) ist hier zu finden. Aus Platzgründen konnte das im Blog Post verwendete “Szenario” einer fiktiven Arbeitssuchenden – Shifteh A. – leider nicht zur Gänze abgebildet werden. Deshalb möchte ich es hier veröffentlichen:
Nachdem wir im Rahmen unserer Studie weder einen direkten Zugang zu AMAS (Arbeitsmarkt-Chancen-Assistenzsystem), noch zu den dafür verwendeten Daten hatten sind die Berechnungen des Szenarios fiktiv. Sie können keine tatsächlichen IC-Werte (Integrationschancen-Werte) oder Fehlerraten berechnen, aber sie können die mit AMAS verbundenen Probleme im Zusammenspiel von technischem Bias und sozialer Praxis (auf Basis der uns vom AMS zur Verfügung gestellten Dokumente & Materialien) plausibel illustrieren. In unserem Bericht haben wir drei weitere Szenarien verfasst, die alle auf ein konkretes Problem in der praktischen Handhabung von AMAS eingehen. Sie können hier im Detail nachgelesen werden.
Finally, our report of the project on the so-called AMS-algorithm is out!!! YAY!!! It was a lot of work, but it was definitely worth it! It is an in-depth sociotechnical analysis and deconstruction of the algorithm the Austrian public employment service (AMS) is planning to roll out all over Austria starting from January 2021. The algorithm poses several severe challenges on both the institutional level and the larger societal level, as we – Doris Allhutter, Florian Cech, Fabian Fischer and Gabriel Grill – argued in our report. We’d like to thank the Upper Austrian Chamber of Labor (AK OÖ) that financed our study and particularly Dennis Tamesberger for his support throught the process. Here you can download the full report.
The report triggered lots of media coverage, e.g. in APA Science or at orf.at. We also did some interviews, e.g. for the Austrian Academy of Sciences, Futurezone or the radio broadcast Ö1 (all in German). The final report is in German, but english publications will (hopefully) follow SOON! For now I’d like to point you to the english publications in New Frontiers in Big Data that we published a year ago (only based on publicly available materials back then, but still relevant in its argumentation):
Allhutter, D., Cech, F., Fischer, F., Grill, G. & Mager, A. (2020) “Algorithmic Profiling of Job Seekers in Austria: How Austerity Politics Are Made Effective”, Frontiers in Big Data (Special Issue Critical Data and Algorithm Studies), full text; open access here.
The special issue I guest-edited together with Christian Katzenbach is going to be (finally) published in February 2021. I’d like to thank Steve Jones for his support throughout this rather long, but finally rewarding process. It’s a pity SAGE won’t publish an online first version of the articles, but well, they apparently agreed to do so for future New Media & Society special issues, which I’d highly appreciate!!! Thanks also to all our authors for their fine contributions and their patience! If you’d like to read our editorial “Future imaginaries in the making and governing of digital technology: Multiple, contested, commodified” I’d like to point you to our preprint version here. Let us know what you think about our interpretations and advancements of the concept “sociotechnial imaginaries” by Sheila Jasanoff and related analytical tools to capture, understand, and investigate future imaginaries in the making and governing of digital technology. It’s an ongoing debate we wanted to contribute to with this special issue and its excellent contributions..
I’m very happy that our article “Algorithmic Profiling of Job Seekers in Austria: How Austerity Politics Are Made Effective” by Doris Allhutter, Florian Cech, Fabian Fischer, Gabriel Grill and me (from the ITA, TU Wien, University of Michigan) is published now!! It’s part of the special issue “Critical Data and Algorithm Studies” in the open access journal Frontiers in Big Data edited by Katja Mayer and Jürgen Pfeffer! Thanks Katja for a speedy review process!! Surprisingly, the article triggered quite some resonance within the academic, but also in the public sphere. Lot’s of journalists etc got interested in this “first scientific study” on “the AMS Algorithm”. Since we’re currently working on an additional study comprising a deeper analysis of our own materials (including our own data inquiry to the AMS), we’re not able to talk much about this paper in public at this specific moment. But new insights will follow by the end of Mai or mid-June at the latest, so keep posted!!! Here’s the project description of the current study funded by the Arbeiterkammer OÖ.
Today, the Internet Governance Forum started in Berlin. As part of this huge event the edited volume “Busted! The Truth About the 50 Most Common Internet Myths“ will be launched. This wonderful volume – edited by Matthias Kettemann & Stephan Dreyer – is a compilation of common Internet myths and their deconstructions. Here is the link to the whole book: https://internetmythen.de (English and German; including summaries in all five UN languages). Enjoy!!
I’ve contributed Myth #19: Search engines provide objective results:
Together with Katja Mayer I wrote an article about quantified self, big data and social justice in the health context. The title is “Body data-data body: Tracing ambiguous trajectories of data bodies between empowerment and social control in the context of health” and it has just recently been published by the wonderful open access journal Momentum Quarterly!! Here is the link to the full text (completely free of charge!)! Don’t get irritated by the German title and abstract, the article is in English, no worries! 😉