The Privacy Consequences of Search
In Chapter 1, I suggested that the term ‘algorithmically mediatised living’ is now a useful, if somewhat mysterious, way for explaining the shift to new ways of knowing that are underpinned by computerisation. To revisit the term, you will recall that it’s referencing an idea that the design of computing algorithms in, for example, computer search, actively produces knowledge and is facilitating material social life choices. The word algorithm invokes a level of geekdom that frightens many away. But like so many examples of techspeak, it’s actually representing a fairly straightforward notion. It refers to any methodical way of doing a series of prioritised tasks. So, in the case of search engines, at an elementary level, it is referencing an opaque ‘blackbox’ process whereby the ‘engine’ automatically converts data collected into a results list of the most relevant material found. This shift to algorithmically mediatised living is an essential element in Pasquinelli’s account of ‘cognitive capitalism’; in his view, it represents ‘a new planetary scale of computation (which) demands, nevertheless, a new planetary scale of politics’. 3
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