ABSTRACT

This chapter offers an introductory and panoramic view for thinking about algorithms and subjectivity. It proposes to think about algorithms as epistemic devices, socio-technical assemblages engaged in the creation of knowledge about the world and about the self. Given the centrality of knowledge in the conduct of society in the past few centuries, and given the ubiquitous presence of algorithmic devices in contemporary everyday life, we must ask what is the nature of this new epistemology, and what are its social ramifications. Using Habermas’ theory of knowledge, the chapter outlines the nature of that knowledge, and underscores its limits, particularly its incongruence with critical knowledge. It introduces a dual common thread that runs throughout the book. The one sees algorithmic knowledge as striving to create knowledge about the world and the self through bypassing subjectivity. The other considers subjective and inter-subjective processes of self-reflection and communication as crucial to the creation of critical knowledge. The social and political ramifications of algorithmic knowledge, which renders subjectivity redundant from its formation, are also discussed.