Republished from University of Plymouth
Denis Roio: This thesis describes a practice based research journey across various projects dealing with the design of algorithms, to highlight the governance implications in design choices made on them. The research provides answers and documents methodologies to address the urgent need for more awareness of decisions made by algorithms about the social and economical context in which we live. Algorithms constitute a foundational basis across different fields of studies: policy making, governance, art and technology. The ability to understand what is inscribed in such algorithms, what are the consequences of their execution and what is the agency left for the living world is crucial. Yet there is a lack of interdisciplinary and practice based literature, while specialised treatises are too narrow to relate to the broader context in which algorithms are enacted.
This thesis advances the awareness of algorithms and related aspects of sovereignty through a series of projects documented as participatory action research. One of the projects described, Devuan, leads to the realisation of a new, worldwide renown operating system. Another project, “sup”, consists of a minimalist approach to mission critical software and literate programming to enhance security and reliability of applications. Another project, D-CENT, consisted in a 3 year long path of cutting edge research funded by the EU commission on the emerging dynamics of participatory democracy connected to the technologies adopted by citizen organizations.
My original contribution to knowledge lies within the function that the research underpinning these projects has on the ability to gain a better understanding of sociopolitical aspects connected to the design and management of algorithms. It suggests that we can improve the design and regulation of future public, private and common spaces which are increasingly governed by algorithms by understanding not only economical and legal implications, but also the connections between design choices and the sociopolitical context for their development and execution.
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