Toward a Popular Theory of Algorithms (New paper)


This paper establishes dialogs between theories on the popular and critical studies on algorithms and datafication. In doing so, it contributes to reversing the analytical tendency to assume that algorithms have universal effects and that conclusions about “algorithmic power” in the Global North apply unproblematically everywhere else. We begin by clarifying how Latin American scholars and other research traditions have theorized the popular (“lo popular”). We then develop four dimensions of lo popular to implement these ideas in the case of algorithms: playful cultural practices, imagination, resistance, and “in-betweenness.” We argue that this dialogue can generate different ways of thinking about the problems inherent to algorithmic mediation by drawing attention to the remixes of cultural practices, imaginative solutions to everyday problems, “cyborg” forms of resistance, and ambiguous forms of agency that are central to the operations of algorithmic assemblages nowadays.