This is the S.A.D newsletter. A critical look at Software, Algorithm, and Data with a multidisciplinary twist.
What Do I get?
Weekly-ish expect to have a letter in your inbox that includes some (or all) of the following: news summary, book reviews, list of recommended readings, long form commentary. The emphasis will be multidisciplinary investigation and study of all things S.A.D.
Who's behind the S.A.D newsletter?
I am Sharif Islam — Data Architect, currently working for the EU funded DiSSCo project. I have more than fifteen years of experience working with high performance computing and large scale distributed systems. My multidisciplinary academic background includes Mathematics, Computer Science, and Sociology.
We live in a society mediated by software, algorithm, and data. Some of these mediations are manifested through social media, various platforms, and services. However, for a number (indeed, a significant number) of people around the world, our social, professional, economic, and political lives are increasingly being facilitated by digital connectivity between people, places, and things. This pervasive fabric of connected digital objects along with the underlying physical infrastructures, organizations, policies and the market forces related to this fabric now make up our "society" and "sociality". As Geert Lovink succinctly puts it, there is no “social” anymore outside of social media. To take his idea a bit further — we now live in a S.A.D world.
The newsletter is an attempt to make sense of it all — the intersection of S.A.D and the implications of technology for humanity and the planet. The title might sound pessimistic and critical (critiquing often takes a pessimistic and melancholy approach) but through this writing and sharing exercise hopefully, we come up better on the other side. The name also reflects the post COVID global discussions and reflections on phenomena such as “zoom fatigue” or “doomscrolling” where underlying platforms driven by software, algorithm, and data are having a significant impact on our daily lives. We need frameworks and methods to study these. Some of the ideas I will express here fall under “platform studies” “critical infrastructure studies”, “critical data and algorithm studies”. There is also a growing focus on materiality and assemblage theory (in particular I am looking at Manuel DeLanda’s extension of Deleuze and Guattari’s idea of assemblage to think about different parts of the society that form the whole ).
I think this is an exciting time of growth and disruption in the technology domain driven by software, algorithm, and data but at the same time with a significant cost to our planet’s resources. I will break down the news items and the related analysis and the scholarship in a more digestible format. I want readers to be part of these discussions as we try to understand our world. So subscribe!
And tell your friends.