Algorithmic Life: Calculative Devices in the Age of Big Data

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Louise Amoore, Volha Piotukh
Routledge, Dec 22, 2015 - Political Science - 212 pages

This book critically explores forms and techniques of calculation that emerge with digital computation, and their implications. The contributors demonstrate that digital calculative devices matter beyond their specific functions as they progressively shape, transform and govern all areas of our life. In particular, it addresses such questions as:

  • How does the drive to make sense of, and productively use, large amounts of diverse data, inform the development of new calculative devices, logics and techniques?
  • How do these devices, logics and techniques affect our capacity to decide and to act?
  • How do mundane elements of our physical and virtual existence become data to be analysed and rearranged in complex ensembles of people and things?
  • In what ways are conventional notions of public and private, individual and population, certainty and probability, rule and exception transformed and what are the consequences?
  • How does the search for ‘hidden’ connections and patterns change our understanding of social relations and associative life?
  • Do contemporary modes of calculation produce new thresholds of calculability and computability, allowing for the improbable or the merely possible to be embraced and acted upon?
  • As contemporary approaches to governing uncertain futures seek to anticipate future events, how are calculation and decision engaged anew?

Drawing together different strands of cutting-edge research that is both theoretically sophisticated and empirically rich, this book makes an important contribution to several areas of scholarship, including the emerging social science field of software studies, and will be a vital resource for students and scholars alike.



PART I Algorithmic life
PART II Calculation in the age of big data
PART III Signal visualise calculate
PART IV Affective devices

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About the author (2015)

Louise Amoore is Professor of Political Geography at the University of Durham. She researches and teaches in the areas of global geopolitics and security, and is particularly interested in how contemporary forms of data, analytics and risk management are changing border management and security. Her latest book The Politics of Possibility: Risk and Security Beyond Probability was published in 2013 by Duke University Press. She is currently ESRC Global Uncertainties Leadership Fellow (2012–2015), and her project Securing against Future Events (SaFE): Pre-emption, Protocols and Publics (ES/K000276/1) examines how inferred futures become the basis for new forms of security risk calculus.

Volha Piotukh holds a PhD in Politics and International Studies from the University of Leeds and is currently Postdoctoctoral Research Associate at the Department of Geography of the University of Durham, where she works with Prof. Louise Amoore on Securing against Future Events (SaFE): Pre-emption, Protocols and Publics research project. Prior to that, she taught at the University of Leeds, the University of Westminster and UCL. She is the author of Biopolitics, Governmentality and Humanitarianism: ‘Caring’ for the Population in Afghanistan and Belarus (Routledge, 2015), which offers an interpretation of the post-Cold War changes in the nature of humanitarian action using Michel Foucault’s theorising on biopolitics and governmentality, placed in a broader context of his thinking on power.

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