Audio of this conversation is available via your favorite podcast service.
These days we take for granted that algorithmic systems are always at work in our digital media interactions, constantly assessing us and distributing our attention. But what do we know about the motivations and assumptions of the people developing those systems? What do they regard as their own moral and political responsibilities?
Today’s episode features a discussion with Nick Seaver, a professor at Tufts University and the author of Computing Taste: Algorithms and the Makers of Music Recommendation from the University of Chicago Press. Nick is an anthropologist who studies how people use technology to make sense of cultural things. His book is the product of ethnographic observation and conversations with developers working on music recommendation algorithms and other systems designed to understand and cater to user preferences. His research gives us a better understanding of the motivations of the executives and engineers designing systems to command our attention, which he considers to be “a currency, a capacity, a filter, a spotlight, and a moral responsibility.”
A transcript is forthcoming.
Justin Hendrix is CEO and Editor of Tech Policy Press, a new nonprofit media venture concerned with the intersection of technology and democracy. Previously, he was Executive Director of NYC Media Lab. He spent over a decade at The Economist in roles including Vice President, Business Development & Innovation. He is an associate research scientist and adjunct professor at NYU Tandon School of Engineering. Opinions expressed here are his own.