The Tensions of Algorithmic Thinking is here
News of my new book and a discount code for subscribers to this newsletter
My new book The Tensions of Algorithmic Thinking: Automation, Intelligence and the Politics of Knowing is published today by Bristol University Press.
The publisher has created a special 50% discount for subscribers to this newsletter. The discount applies to the hardback and ebook. If you’d like to purchase the book, you can just enter the code POAT50 on the publisher’s site, which is here. The discount lasts for two weeks and expires on the 15th of December.
The paperback will follow, but it will be a little while away. It would be much appreciated if you could add the book to any module reading lists if you can (there are also review copies with the journals if that’s of interest).
I started writing this book in 2019 and it proved to be difficult to both start and to complete. The framing kept changing and the hook didn’t quite hold. It was only when I realised I had two drafted chapters that argued opposite things that I understood what I was seeing. Those draft chapters demonstrated forces that were pulling in different directions. The book then became about the tensions produced by those opposing forces. Automation is tense. So I wrote about the tensions that the implementation of algorithmic systems (including AI, machine learning and so on) create. The book develops a series of four concepts for analysing those tensions - it also has some other concepts in the mix that frame the discussions, including the notion of the algorithmic new life and the will to automate.
The publication of the book has got me thinking again about the decisions that researchers take about the direction and form of their work. Time is always tight, it’s impossible to do everything we might want to do, so the decisions always feel like they are important. We perhaps still tend to downplay that importance though. I’ve found that the decisions I make about which of the things on my list to do next always leaves some residual doubt about whether the right choice has been made or whether the other project, article, book or maybe even topic would have been a better option. I suspect it depends on what I mean by ‘better’. Choosing to do a book is a decision that led to about three years of work for instance, leaving quite a few other things unwritten.
I’ve not seen much discussion of how people make choices in their research. On reflection, I’m not even sure how I make such choices or if there is any logic or strategy behind it. I’m now wondering how other researchers make such choices. No doubt there will be some external forces encouraging them to choose particular directions or to focus on certain forms of output, but other factors must be part of the equation. I’ve seen glimpses of it, but most of the time when we talk about research the decisions have already been made.
Maybe these types of decisions and how they are arrived at is something that we just assume takes care of itself. It’s interesting because it’s such a fundamental part of the research process, plus, overall, those individual decisions shape entire fields.
In case it’s of interest, as part of the promotion for the new book BUP have also created the same 50% discount for the book Ben Jacobsen and I wrote together Social Media and the Automatic Production of Memory. You can just use the same code.