Thursday, October 23, 2014

Tarleton Gillespie "The relevance of algorithms"

Tarleton Gillespie was an associate professor at Cornell University.  He specialized in the Department of Communication in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. His studies primarily focused on the study of digital media emphasizing the cultural impacts and polices of technology. He strives to promote media-savvy habits towards his students and has been awarded as Residential Research Fellow (2012) by the European Institutes for Advanced Study. The reading for the week was a chapter from an anthology, Media Technologies: Essays on Communication, Materiality, and Society, which Tarleton Gillespie co-authored with Pablo Boczkowski and Kirsten Foot.  The purpose of the reading was focus on the interaction between materiality and media technology. Currently Gillespie is on leave from Cornell University and is in New England on a twelve-month Visiting Researcher stay with Microsoft Research.
            The "The relevance of algorithms" introduces what an algorithm is while focusing on its relevance to society.  He starts off by defining an algorithm as “encoded procedures for transforming input data into a desired output, based on specified calculations”. He next introduces the six dimensions of public relevance algorithms that explain how algorithms function within society. The first dimension outlined is inclusion, which is the decision of what is included and excluded in data. It then transitions into the next dimension, which is called cycles of anticipation. This dimension focuses on the way in algorithms store key information to better cater to their users. On the other hand it also is in charge or censoring search results ensuring users do not find undesirable results while browsing. The rest of the dimensions he discusses are evaluation of relevance, promise of algorithmic objectivity, entanglement with practice, and the production of calculated publics. Overall the article was quite informative and gave an insightful look into the world of algorithms. It highlighted the large role algorithms play in society most people are unaware of.
            The article was not widely reviewed by many, one student studying digital methods abroad in Paris blogged her thoughts on the article. She was not fully convinced of Gillespie’s idea of a “conceptual map”. She felt as though the article did not quite flow in that sense, yet it still contained relevant and thoughtful information. She began to try and point out sections of the reading that she enjoyed, but it appeared that Gillespie’s provoked many questions from her rather than making her believe his six dimension idea. Another article heavily cited Gillespie’s article appearing to generally believe in the importance of algorithms to the same extent Gillespie did. The article included the six dimensions that he outlined and seemed to value the outlook more than the first review did. Below are various other books that Gillespie has contributed to throughout his career.

Other Books:
Free Speech in the Age of Platforms
Wired Shut: Copyright and the Shape of Digital Culture

 Birkbak, A. (2014, April 24). NetSociology: Two (used) comments on Gillespie's new chapter "The Relevance of Algorithms" Retrieved October 23, 2014, from

Cornell University. (n.d.). Retrieved October 23, 2014, from

Gillespie, T. (n.d.). Tarleton Gillespie. Retrieved October 23, 2014, from

Musiani, F. (2013, August 9). Governance by algorithms. Retrieved October 23, 2014, from


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