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What Algorithms Want : Imagination in the…
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What Algorithms Want : Imagination in the Age of Computing (édition 2018)

par Ed Finn (Auteur)

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We depend on--we believe in--algorithms to help us get a ride, choose which book to buy, execute a mathematical proof. It's as if we think of code as a magic spell, an incantation to reveal what we need to know and even what we want. Humans have always believed that certain invocations--the marriage vow, the shaman's curse--do not merely describe the world but make it. Computation casts a cultural shadow that is shaped by this long tradition of magical thinking. In this book, Ed Finn considers how the algorithm--in practical terms, "a method for solving a problem"--has its roots not only in mathematical logic but also in cybernetics, philosophy, and magical thinking. Finn argues that the algorithm deploys concepts from the idealized space of computation in a messy reality, with unpredictable and sometimes fascinating results. Drawing on sources that range from Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash to Diderot's Encyclop©♭die, from Adam Smith to the Star Trek computer, Finn explores the gap between theoretical ideas and pragmatic instructions. He examines the development of intelligent assistants like Siri, the rise of algorithmic aesthetics at Netflix, Ian Bogost's satiric Facebook game Cow Clicker, and the revolutionary economics of Bitcoin. He describes Google's goal of anticipating our questions, Uber's cartoon maps and black box accounting, and what Facebook tells us about programmable value, among other things. If we want to understand the gap between abstraction and messy reality, Finn argues, we need to build a model of "algorithmic reading" and scholarship that attends to process, spearheading a new experimental humanities.--Publisher website.… (plus d'informations)
Membre:flint63
Titre:What Algorithms Want : Imagination in the Age of Computing
Auteurs:Ed Finn (Auteur)
Info:MIT Press (2018), Ausgabe: Reprint, 266 Seiten
Collections:Votre bibliothèque
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Mots-clés:Algorithm, _monograph, _print, _ebook

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What Algorithms Want: Imagination in the Age of Computing (MIT Press) par Ed Finn

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Insufferably pretentious writing makes it tiresome to read, even though the content is interesting and at times insightful. ( )
  Paul_S | Dec 23, 2020 |
Review to follow ( )
  Steve_Walker | Sep 13, 2020 |
Twice I read (that is, listened) to this book, because I thought, the first time, that there must have been something more to it. Pretty much there wasn't.

The Bad:

* constant puddles and swamps of art-wank, intellectual-wank writing that often isn't even correct, only obscure.

* excessive reference to a few books (yes, I have read Snow Crash and nearly all the others mentioned) reduce the power of the thesis overall.

* just not well written, somewhat shocked but not really shocking.

* by "Algorithms" he means "large systems of computational workings" and hardly ever 'algorithms'.

* the constant attempts to connect algorithms large computational systems to culture don't really work.

The last two are acceptable, the first a disaster.

The Good:

* nuggets of awesome insight into all kinds of systems, like about how High Frequency Trading is - really - bizarre. I would have *much* preferred a few articles with the good, hard, stuff, and dump the rest.

That's it. There's nothing else to say.
( )
  GirlMeetsTractor | Mar 22, 2020 |
Già il titolo originale del libro, che è poi stato tradotto letteralmente in italiano, è in realtà fuorviante. Finn è in effetti interessato a quella che nell'Epilogo del libro chiama "Scienze umane sperimentali": nelle parole dell'autore, «una ricerca umanistica pubblica che si impegna direttamente con la cultura algoritmica. Abbattendo il muro illusorio tra critica e creatività, tra osservazione e azione, tra lettura e scrittura». Ha ragione quando dice che il problema - se preferite, l'opportunità - non sono tanto gli algoritmi quanto tutto quello che ci sta attorno, e ha anche ragione nel dire che già da un pezzo ci stiamo adattando noi agli algoritmi e non viceversa, come ben dovrebbe sapere chi usa un assistente vocale e scopre che deve parlare in un modo ben specifico. Però il libro mi pare troppo intento a spiegare quanto gli algoritmi siano brutti e cattivi, anziché entrare nel merito non dico del "come" ma almeno del "perché". Insomma, non è che mi abbia detto chissà cosa. Una nota molto personale: nell'introduzione trovo una nota del traduttore che spiega perché ha scelto di tradurre "computation" con "elaborazione". Che bravo traduttore, mi dico, è proprio la scelta che avrei fatto io. Vado a vedere chi è il traduttore, e scopro che è il mio amico Daniele Gewurz. Tutto torna... ( )
  .mau. | Jan 5, 2020 |
Fair warning: this book contains words like 'hermeneutics', verbs like 'negotiate' (as in 'it constantly negotiates the tensions between computation and material reality', or 'the humans who operate in that contested space must constantly negotiate between computational and cultural regimes of meaning'), and sentences like 'We need an experimental humanities, a set of strategies for direct engagement with algorithmic production and scholarship, drawing on theories of improvisation and experimental investigation to argue that a culture of process, of algorithmic production, requires a processual criticism that is both reflective and playful.' (No, that's not a pisstake; see page 13.) And apparently there are about 17 different kinds of 'arbitrage', most of which bear no obvious relation to the usual sense of the word.

As you might have guessed, What Algorithms Want teeters dangerously on the brink of empty, insufferable bullshit. But Finn actually has some interesting things to say, and somehow his style is less annoying, and much easier to follow, than it has any right to be. His lapses into humanities jargon and barely-meaningful imprecision tend to seem more like acts of overenthusiasm than deliberate obfuscation.

So overall I quite enjoyed this. But I'm not convinced Finn knew exactly what he wanted to say, and I reckon what he did say could have been communicated much more clearly in half the space, were he so inclined. And the first chapter is probably the biggest pile of humanities-wankery that I've ever read voluntarily and without throwing the book against a wall. (The 'Coda' at the end might have given it a run for its money, if it weren't so brief.) So I guess the fact that I somehow found this worth reading is very high praise, of a sort.

(A sidenote: I found Neal Stephenson's blurb quite surprising, given what I thought he thought about this branch of academia. Admittedly that was mostly based on my hazy memory of a scene in Cryptonomicon, a novel I started to read years ago and never finished.) ( )
  matt_ar | Dec 6, 2019 |
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We depend on--we believe in--algorithms to help us get a ride, choose which book to buy, execute a mathematical proof. It's as if we think of code as a magic spell, an incantation to reveal what we need to know and even what we want. Humans have always believed that certain invocations--the marriage vow, the shaman's curse--do not merely describe the world but make it. Computation casts a cultural shadow that is shaped by this long tradition of magical thinking. In this book, Ed Finn considers how the algorithm--in practical terms, "a method for solving a problem"--has its roots not only in mathematical logic but also in cybernetics, philosophy, and magical thinking. Finn argues that the algorithm deploys concepts from the idealized space of computation in a messy reality, with unpredictable and sometimes fascinating results. Drawing on sources that range from Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash to Diderot's Encyclop©♭die, from Adam Smith to the Star Trek computer, Finn explores the gap between theoretical ideas and pragmatic instructions. He examines the development of intelligent assistants like Siri, the rise of algorithmic aesthetics at Netflix, Ian Bogost's satiric Facebook game Cow Clicker, and the revolutionary economics of Bitcoin. He describes Google's goal of anticipating our questions, Uber's cartoon maps and black box accounting, and what Facebook tells us about programmable value, among other things. If we want to understand the gap between abstraction and messy reality, Finn argues, we need to build a model of "algorithmic reading" and scholarship that attends to process, spearheading a new experimental humanities.--Publisher website.

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