Welcome to the inaugural issue of the S.A.D Newsletter. A multidisciplinary look at the role of Software, Algorithm, and Data.
We live in a society mediated by software, algorithm, and data. 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” any more 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 ).
Regularly, I will collect, curate and comment on a growing critical literature on S.A.D along with relevant and noteworthy news items. The disciplinary focus spans sociology, anthropology, science and technology studies, geography, environmental sciences, communication, media studies, legal studies, and religious studies, literature among others. With the readers, I want to examine our existing world views more critically and compassionately and embrace a new way of thinking that emphasises our interdependence and connectedness.
My educational background (B.Sc. in Mathematics and Computer science, University of Illinois; PhD, Sociology, University of Illinois) has provided me with critical and analytical skills in computational aspects and the social sciences. I have been working in the information technology field for the past fifteen years in large academic and research settings setting with complex and distributed systems. I hope my interdisciplinary professional and educational perspective can provide an interesting view of the complexity of our world. So if you want to embark on this journey, come along.
In the meantime, tell your friends!