Algorithmic Culture is a research programme at Het Nieuwe Instituut that critically investigates the nature and effects of the entanglement of culture with algorithmic processes.
Over the last decade, the digital manifestations of media, politics, markets, infrastructures, lifestyles and cultures have increasingly been captured and measured in the form of data. As a consequence, their combined societal and material processes are deeply interwoven with the sophisticated algorithms that filter and aggregate the information. This resulting amalgam of human and machinic tendencies and capabilities could be called algorithmic culture. It produces new kinds of knowledge, forms of politics and types of errors.
Algorithmic processes have different cognitive capabilities from humans, and can reveal hitherto unknown patterns in big data, as well as new, relevant forms of knowledge that are yet to be fully explored. In practices that range from gaming and cultural research to medical diagnostics, climate modeling, and military tactics, automated cognitive processes are collaborating with skilled humans, resulting in enhanced performance speed and accuracy in a range of tasks. However, algorithmic processing can also reinforce existing forms of social inequality and segregation when they extrapolate unacknowledged biases present in the datasets that are used to develop the algorithms’ discerning abilities, leading to new mechanisms of inclusion and exclusion.
Under the guise of user convenience, personalisation and ‘free’ access to social media, algorithmic recommendation systems point users to content that aligns with the ‘datafied’ past choices of themselves and other users. This fosters the emergence of filter bubbles and echo chambers in which automated systems automatically insulate world views from opposing perspectives.
Algorithmic Culture analyses the political agency of algorithms and the potential effects of machine learning from a cultural perspective, in order to develop strategies to better comprehend and, where necessary, counteract them.
Since its founding in 2013, Het Nieuwe Instituut has fostered research initiatives in the form of exhibitions, events, archival investigations and publications by a variety of practitioners, independent researchers, academics and curators. Its Research & Development department acknowledges and gives visibility to research projects and initiatives that develop engaged, self-aware and critical arguments about alternative modes of living and experimenting in the cultural field.
The Artistic Director of Het Nieuwe Instituut is Guus Beumer, the Head of Research & Development is Marina Otero Verzier, and team members include Marten Kuijpers, Tamar Shafrir, Klaas Kuitenbrouwer, and Katía Truijen.
The research on Algorithmic Culture has manifested in a series of public programmes
Garden of Machines
An exhibition and public programme on the potential role of algorithmic processes in sustaining hybrid ecologies.
In loving support
A 32-page publication included in Volume #49 magazine. This was the result of a four-day retreat that examined the relations between machine learning and cultural research, including questions of authorship, copyright, originality, as well as transformed conditions of labour under automation.
Screensavers, Generative Images and Entangled Algorithms
Interview on generative imagery and entangled algorithms with Matthew Plummer Fernandez, Robert-Jan Leegte and Rosa Menkman, published in the web magazine belonging to the Sleep Mode exhibition.
A series of public programmes that combine lectures with a more practical approach. Bot Clubs take a critical look at a world in which bots, algorithmic agents, and generative processes do the work. All material related to the Bot Clubs and hackathons is collected in the Bot Club web magazine.
A long-term research project on the implications of automation for the built environment.