Algorithmic recommendation is not simply a higher-resolution representation of a market — a more precise picture of atomistic individuals that does away with the need for larger-scale approximations like market segments. Rather, it is another mode of the synaptic function — another technique for making and interpreting correspondences between persons and things, another way of organizing collective forms. Collaborative filters algorithmically rearticulate the relationship between individual and aggregate traits, suggesting the need for social scientific theories that eschew the classic break between groups and their members (for a preliminary attempt at such an approach, see Latour et al., forthcoming).
The work of recommendation, like the work of demographic marketing, relies on the idea that there are meaningful similarities among consumers and that these similarities correspond with similarities in objects. However, in algorithmic form, these correspondences take on new forms and meanings, blending preference, identity, and similarity. As these theories are built into online infrastructures, shaping the relations between persons and things and articulating new collective forms, they demand attention, not only as material for analysis, but as new modes of analysis itself.”
“Conversation in a full elevator encroaches on the personal space of other riders, which is already greatly reduced. The closed space imparts a sense of intimacy, and the riders who aren’t participants in the discussion are left feeling like eavesdroppers. That’s not to say that no conversation occurs, but that conversations with strangers are kept to a minimum. Conversations themselves are somewhat awkward things - you never know how they’ll go with the other person if this is a first meeting, and in the close quarters of an elevator cab it can feel as though you’re under close scrutiny.”
“Paglia knows better. She knows that women are women, feminists are stupid, communication networks have replaced real intimacies and Madonna was ripped off. What she doesn’t seem to know is that all cultural production consists of wild combinations of the new and the old, the borrowed and the bold, the real and the fabricated. She also doesn’t seem to know that every generation must have its icons and the tired cycle of oedipal denunciations within which older people sneer at younger people’s tastes never does change anything.”