Algorithms are becoming cultural artefacts in their own right. The idea behind algo-pop is to create a call for documentation and discourse for algorithms that have increasingly strong cultural and social agency. Not all algorithms should be treated as mathematical abstracts that are pure and have no overlap with popular culture. A simple list of emerging cultural activity requiring algorithmic mediation proves this case to be true: ad targeting, online shopping recommendations, social bots, photo filtering and sharing, algo-trading, tagging, striving for a high klout score. With an instagram filtered image, the algorithm becomes legible, if you squint at it you can almost isolate the algorithm in your minds eye; a set of commands cropping and sepia tinting whatever image you throw at it, this man-made ‘thing’ is a cultural artefact, a considerably large number of people would recognise it instantly. More bizarrely this particular algorithm could be considered a type of nostalgo, an algorithm whose effectiveness relies on its ability to conjure past cultural references. Some algorithms are even personified as bots, a ‘thing’ you live amongst, or beneath, or above, or encounter on a casual basis. These are a somewhat tangible type of socio-cultural algorithm, but many are invisible, especially to those who don’t understand them. Algorithms are even reaching beyond the host operating system, leaving their trace in the management of warehouses to 3D printed artefacts (hint, hint).
I’m not claiming to be the first to delve in this, and have included a reading list below, I’m simply announcing that I’m increasingly interested in this topic and I’ll be using the shorthand moniker and tag #algopop (and invite anyone to do so too) for any news or thoughts on algorithms participating in the way we live, behave, co-exist, amuse, enjoy, consume or ignore. The tag helps locate it (appropriately with the help of algorithms).
Kevin Slavin, Honor Harger, Tartelon Gillespie, Christopher Steiner, Julien Oliver,