Bureaucracy as a Lens for Analyzing and Designing Algorithmic Systems

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http://hdl.handle.net/10138/317100

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Pääkkönen , J , Nelimarkka , M , Haapoja , J & Lampinen , A 2020 , Bureaucracy as a Lens for Analyzing and Designing Algorithmic Systems . in Proceedings of the 2020 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems . ACM , New York . https://doi.org/10.1145/3313831.3376780

Title: Bureaucracy as a Lens for Analyzing and Designing Algorithmic Systems
Author: Pääkkönen, Juho; Nelimarkka, Matti; Haapoja, Jesse; Lampinen, Airi
Contributor: University of Helsinki, Faculty of Social Sciences
University of Helsinki, Centre for Social Data Science, CSDS
University of Helsinki, Faculty of Social Sciences
Publisher: ACM
Date: 2020-04
Number of pages: 14
Belongs to series: Proceedings of the 2020 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems
ISBN: 978-1-4503-6708-0
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10138/317100
Abstract: Scholarship on algorithms has drawn on the analogy between algorithmic systems and bureaucracies to diagnose shortcomings in algorithmic decision-making. We extend the analogy further by drawing on Michel Crozier’s theory of bureaucratic organizations to analyze the relationship between algorithmic and human decision-making power. We present algorithms as analogous to impartial bureaucratic rules for controlling action, and argue that discretionary decision-making power in algorithmic systems accumulates at locations where uncertainty about the operation of algorithms persists. This key point of our essay connects with Alkhatib and Bernstein’s theory of ’street-level algorithms’, and highlights that the role of human discretion in algorithmic systems is to accommodate uncertain situations which inflexible algorithms cannot handle. We conclude by discussing how the analysis and design of algorithmic systems could seek to identify and cultivate important sources of uncertainty, to enable the human discretionary work that enhances systemic resilience in the face of algorithmic errors.
Subject: 113 Computer and information sciences
5171 Political Science
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