Google’s motto is “Don’t be evil.” Facebook seeks to “bring the world closer together,” and its internal motto was previously “Move fast and break things.” What are the material consequences of the policies, ideologies, and products of technology companies? How have culture and politics changed due to the emergence of algorithmic life, in which our choice sets, identities, and relationships with each other are shaped by code?
Technological advancements and innovations in the last few decades have transformed and disrupted every aspect of life from governance and business models, to cultural life. On one hand, these changes have vastly improved the quality of our lives and expanded the choices available to us. However, from the emergence of fake news to biased AI, it is clear that we must think critically about how to build ethical technology that does not undermine our cultural and political institutions.
This course will explore the fast-changing relationships between technology, culture, and politics by analyzing several key questions and developments. The course is organized around four main themes – data as a medium of control, algorithmic governance, algorithmic capitalism, and technology regulation. We will use a combination of current events, historical accounts, and political and critical theory to analyze these topics.