Arts West, Collaborative Learning Room 356
In this first of TTRU’s workshop series, we focus on computer algorithms and the important role they play in contemporary society. Algorithmic formulas make possible tasks as diverse as performing a spell check in a word document, conducting a google search, creating film special effects, or controlling the movement of a robot. The presenters will each speak for about 10 minutes about the significance of algorithms to their research, the aim being to generate discussion based on the diverse examples and disciplinary approaches.
The Social Life of Algorithms: Professor Purnima Mankekar (Gender Studies /Asian American Studies / Film, Television, and Digital Media, UCLA) & Professor Akhil Gupta (Anthropology, UCLA)
We have been doing ethnographic research on call centres and BPMs (Business-Process Management companies) in Bangalore, India, since 2009. In the last two to three years, these companies have moved heavily to the use of AI to track consumer behaviour and to enable call-centre agents to better serve their customers. As a consequence, algorithms have become increasingly important in how customer service agents interact with their clients. We are interested in exploring how these companies are using big data and analytics to fashion algorithms that allow them to follow, anticipate, and cater to consumers across a wide variety of platforms such as web browsing, mobile apps, chats, and phone calls. What are the social implications of this new mode of interacting with consumers? How does it affect the people who work for these companies?
Algorithms and gendered voices in Apple’s Siri and Microsoft’s Cortana: Thao Phan (PhD Candidate, Media&Comm/TTRU, UniMelb)
We live, comments Alexander Galloway (2006), in an algorithmic culture. Algorithms are now inescapably embedded into everyday life transforming processes and objects from cultural artefacts into ‘smart’ systems. But unlike most algorithms, which are obscured behind the black box of post-industrial processes, Intelligent Personal Assistant Softwares such as Apple’s Siri and Microsoft Cortana are imbued with voice and personality. That is, they are given a materiality and a tangibility. This presentation aims to interrogate the nature of this materiality, and specifically, the manifestation of the gendered voice.
Evolutionary Algorithms: Associate Prof Michael Kirley (Computing and Information Systems, UniMelb)
Evolutionary algorithms are randomised heuristic search methods based on the generate-and-test principle. Each ‘individual’ encodes a possible solution to the problem, which ‘evolves’ over time. In this talk, I will describe applications from engineering optimisation, urban design and computational social science. I will conclude by briefly discussing emerging research trends.
You may also be interested in watching a public lecture presented by Professor Paul Dourish (School of Information and Computer Sciences, UC Irvine) (or listening to a podcast) who was a Miegunyah Distinguished Visiting Fellow at MelbUni earlier this year. In “The Social Life of Algorithms” Prof Dourish addressed the social life of algorithms – both how we come to understand algorithms as objects, and the consequences of enabling them to act in and upon our world.