- Scrutinizing an algorithmic technique: the Bayes classifier as interested reading of reality
- Information, Communication & Society
- Volume | Issue number
- 20 | 1
- Pages (from-to)
- Document type
- Faculty of Humanities (FGw)
- Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis (ASCA)
This paper outlines the notion of ‘algorithmic technique’ as a middle ground between concrete, implemented algorithms and the broader study and theorization of software. Algorithmic techniques specify principles and methods for doing things in the medium of software and they thus constitute units of knowledge and expertise in the domain of software making. I suggest that algorithmic techniques are a suitable object of study for the humanities and social science since they capture the central technical principles behind actual software, but can generally be described in accessible language. To make my case, I focus on the field of information ordering and, first, discuss the wider historical trajectory of formal or ‘mechanical’ reasoning applied to matters of commerce and government before, second, moving to the investigation of a particular algorithmic technique, the Bayes classifier. This technique is explicated through a reading of the original work of M. E. Maron in the early 1960 and presented as a means to subject empirical, ‘datafied’ reality to an interested reading that confers meaning to each variable in relation to an operational goal. After a discussion of the Bayes classifier in relation to the question of power, the paper concludes by coming back to its initial motive and argues for increased attention to algorithmic techniques in the study of software.
- go to publisher's site
If you believe that digital publication of certain material infringes any of your rights or (privacy) interests, please let the Library know, stating your reasons. In case of a legitimate complaint, the Library will make the material inaccessible and/or remove it from the website. Please Ask the Library, or send a letter to: Library of the University of Amsterdam, Secretariat, Singel 425, 1012 WP Amsterdam, The Netherlands. You will be contacted as soon as possible.