30.11. HSSH Visiting Professor Mirko Schäfer: Interviewing an Algorithm

Visiting Professor Mirko Schäfer lecture on 30.11. 13-15 at HSSH, Vuorikatu 3, 2nd floor and Zoom.

Interviewing an Algorithm – Developing a research method for critical inquiry into algorithmic systems


The more algorithmic systems are used in corporations and government organisations, the more pressing the need for critical data studies to develop methods for studying these systems in their respective developer and use contexts. Recently, we started to develop a socio-cultural analysis of algorithmic systems. Teaming up with two safety and regulation authorities of our national government, the aim is to conceive means of inspecting algorithms beyond a merely technical audit. Inspired by the practice of appraisal interviews between employer and employee, we design a review process for an algorithm to evaluate how AI and its use affects values. We are working towards a structural process for inquiring developer and use contexts of algorithmic systems and how they relate to public values. Drawing from methods of inquiring cultural texts and their production and use contexts, we develop a method for inquiring algorithmic systems. This talk discusses the emerging governance and regulation of AI. The aim is twofold: a) to initiate a discussion on empirical methods in critical data studies, with an eye to analysing algorithms, and b) to engage in conversations on how our work as critical data scholars can effectively intervene in shaping the digital society.

Mirko Schäfer is Associate Professor at Utrecht University's research area Governing the Digital Society and Visiting Professor at the Helsinki Institute for Social Sciences and Humanities (HSSH) in 2022-2024. He is co-founder and project leader of the Utrecht Data School. Schäfer's research interest revolves around the socio-political impact of (media) technology. With the Utrecht Data School and the Datafied Society research platform, he investigates the impact of data practices and algorithms on public management, public media and public space.

The talk is arranged as a hybrid event, in person at HSSH (Vuorikatu 3, 2nd floor) and on Zoom.

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