Public Lecture: Paul Dourish

The social lives of algorithms

Presented by Professor Paul Dourish, Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences University of California, Irvine

The Lecture

Arguments around the rise of automation and associated digital technology advances have traditionally focused on deskilling and the transformation of work. Lately, a new focus has emerged around the role of algorithms as things that shape our lives. Algorithms dispatch us taxis, evaluate our credit-worthiness, assess the security risks of online transactions, and choose which ads we see. They drive online dating sites, and gather the search results that help us decide on what to eat for dinner and where.

Algorithms aren’t just technical objects; they’re also social objects that play a role in the organisation of everyday sociality, and are the outcome of the social actions of organisations, professions, regulators, and lawmakers. Together, algorithms and data come to constitute a new way of understanding and talking about society and ourselves.

This lecture will address the social life of algorithms — both how we come to understand algorithms as objects, and the consequences of enabling them to act in and upon our world.

The Speaker

Paul Dourish is a Professor of Informatics in the Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences at UC Irvine, with courtesy appointments in Computer Science and Anthropology, and an Honorary Senior Fellow in Computing and Information Systems at the University of Melbourne.

His research focuses primarily on understanding information technology as a site of social and cultural production; his work combines topics in human-computer interaction, social informatics, and science and technology studies. He is the author of Where the Action Is: The Foundations of Embodied Interaction (MIT Press, 2001), which explores how phenomenological accounts of action can provide an alternative to traditional cognitive analysis for understanding the embodied experience of interactive and computational systems, and, with Genevieve Bell, Divining a Digital Future: Mess and Mythology in Ubiquitous Computing (MIT Press, 2011), which examines the social and cultural aspects of the ubiquitous computing research program. He is a Fellow of the ACM, a member of the SIGCHI Academy, and a recipient of the AMIA Diana Forsythe Award and the CSCW Lasting Impact Award.

Before coming to UCI, he was a Senior Member of Research Staff in the Computer Science Laboratory of Xerox PARC; he has also held research positions at Apple Computer and at Rank Xerox EuroPARC. He holds a PhD in Computer Science from University College, London, and a BSc (Hons) in Artificial Intelligence and Computer Science from the University of Edinburgh.

Presented as part of the Miegunyah Distinguished Visiting Fellows Program.