Algorithmic power and cultural types

I found this link through Deborah Lupton on Twitter. The article provocatively suggests that your haircut might be used to predict what clothes you might wish to buy. It’s a piece about how algorithms are being used to make predictions about people based upon the photos on their social media platforms. The images are used to link individuals to cultural types – such as hipster, goth, etc – and then these types are used to make predictions about them and their tastes. This is another example of the movement of algorithmic power into culture. I described this a bit in the chapter in algorithms in my book on the politics if circulation. My suggestion in that chapter was that algorithms, through prediction, shape our cultural encounters and cultural landscape. As such they are becoming powerful cultural agents and have the potential to shape tastes and preferences, which in turn feed into our social position. This particular article is also interesting because it is describing a system that uses photos as data. Given the way the photos are used in social media profiles, this could be a significant early step. The accuracy of the predictions is only one issue, it is how algorithms bring a reality into existence that needs to be explored here.

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