We commonly think of society as made of and by humans, but with the proliferation of machine learning and AI technologies, this is clearly no longer the case. Billions of automated systems tacitly contribute to the social construction of reality by drawing algorithmic distinctions between the visible and the invisible, the relevant and the irrelevant, the likely and the unlikely – on and beyond platforms.
Drawing on the work of Pierre Bourdieu, this book develops an original sociology of algorithms as social agents, actively participating in social life. Through a wide range of examples, Massimo Airoldi shows how society shapes algorithmic code, and how this culture in the code guides the practical behaviour of the code in the culture, shaping society in turn. The “machine habitus” is the generative mechanism at work throughout myriads of feedback loops linking humans with artificial social agents, in the context of digital infrastructures and pre-digital social structures. This theoretical perspective sheds fresh light on user-machine interactions and on broader processes of techno-social reproduction, laying the sociological foundations for critically understanding and investigating our increasingly algorithmic culture.
<i>Machine Habitus</i> will be of great interest to students and scholars in sociology, media and cultural studies, science and technology studies and information technology, and to anyone interested in the growing role of algorithms and AI in our social and cultural life.