Unfortunately, the narrative of contemporary algorithmic culture is one that is dominated by particular voices—mostly male, mostly white, and mostly from classes of some privilege. It is not that other voices within the development of code-based works don’t exist, but rather that these voices go unrecognized as a result of being filtered out through algorithmic processes. Although many initiatives are currently undoing and combating exclusion and under-representation, it becomes increasingly difficult to do so when the algorithms we use (and are impacted by) are built upon parameters that disavow the existence of populations that defy categorization or exist contrary to a privileged narrative.
In her germinal 1985 text, A Cyborg Manifesto, Donna Haraway identifies the emergent system of oppression within networked cultural as an “informatics of domination.” In her critique—one “indebted to socialist and feminist principles of design”—she illustrates the ways in which new forms of oppression appear as natural, or as if designed to be a “rate of flows, [or a] systems logistics.” Twenty years later, informatics of domination have become further naturalized through algorithmic processes. Haraway suggests that one way of working against this is to create networks of affinities that deliberately work against the “the translation of the world into a problem of coding.” Perhaps in the sale, acquisition, and the open-source redistribution of algorithms, new opportunities to subvert their systematic neglect will become possible.
Nicholas O’Brien is a net-based artist, curator, and writer. His work has exhibited in Mexico City, Berlin, London, Dublin, Italy, Prague, as well as throughout the U.S. He has been the recipient of a Turbulence Commission funded by the NEA and has curated exhibitions at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, 319 Scholes, and Eyebeam Center for Art and Technology.