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Algorithms, governance, and governmentality: on governing academic writing

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>1/01/2016
<mark>Journal</mark>Science, Technology, and Human Values
Issue number1
Volume41
Number of pages32
Pages (from-to)17-49
Publication statusPublished
Early online date3/06/15
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

Algorithms, or rather algorithmic actions, are seen as problematic because
they are inscrutable, automatic, and subsumed in the flow of daily practices.
Yet, they are also seen to be playing an important role in organizing
opportunities, enacting certain categories, and doing what David Lyon calls
‘‘social sorting.’’ Thus, there is a general concern that this increasingly
prevalent mode of ordering and organizing should be governed more
explicitly. Some have argued for more transparency and openness, others
have argued for more democratic or value-centered design of such actors.
In this article, we argue that governing practices—of, and through algorithmic
actors—are best understood in terms of what Foucault calls
governmentality. Governmentality allows us to consider the performative
nature of these governing practices. They allow us to show how practice
becomes problematized, how calculative practices are enacted as technologies
of governance, how such calculative practices produce domains of knowledge and expertise, and finally, how such domains of knowledge
become internalized in order to enact self-governing subjects. In other
words, it allows us to show the mutually constitutive nature of problems,
domains of knowledge, and subjectivities enacted through governing practices.
In order to demonstrate this, we present attempts to govern academic
writing with a specific focus on the algorithmic action of Turnitin.