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Governing algorithmic models: from ethical-legal evaluation, to interactive and empirical analysis 
Gijs van Maanen
Daan Kolkman (Utrecht University)
Gert Meyers
Fran Meissner (University of Twente)
Linnet Taylor (Tilburg University)
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Traditional Open Panel

Short Abstract:

This interdisciplinary panel collects qualitative studies of governmental algorithms representing humans and nonhuman actors and objects, and reflect on how their empirical work relates to governance and regulation-oriented work done in ethics, law, and policy.

Long Abstract:

Governments use various ‘algorithmic’ tools to represent both the humans (whether individuals or groups) and nonhumans (from trees, to water ways) present in their territories. One example here are the ‘digital twins’ developed and used by municipalities as input for decisions about what cities are and should become. Digital twins are not the only governmental attempts to map, model, imagine, and represent worlds. Recent discussions on the governance of governmental algorithms, however, seem to focus primarily on algorithmically ‘supported’ processes that result in tangible results - e.g. the ‘Ofqual’ scandal in the UK, or the COMPASS case in the US. Much attention here is spent on the reflection on and implementation of ethical-legal norms that aim to either prevent such scandals from occurring, or to allow governments to better ascribe blame or praise in case such efforts appeared to be in vain. Such ex-post evaluations of algorithmic processes resulting in impactful decisions, however, often do not help to acquire a better understanding of how such processes and models work. This is a shame, precisely because research done in STS shows that the ‘regulatory targets’ of such ethical-legal norms are fast moving targets. What ‘the’ algorithmic system or process is that deserves regulatory scrutiny is highly ambiguous.

This interdisciplinary panel aspires to contribute to discussions on algorithmic governance through the collection of qualitative studies of governmental algorithms that refer or represent governmental territory and its inhabitants. We especially invite scholars from various disciplines to reflect on how their empirical work relates and could relate to the ethical-legal questions that are asked by their more governance and regulation-focused colleagues working in fields like ethics, law, policy, public administration, or within governmental institutions themselves. How can and should STS position itself vis-a-vis practices of algorithmic governance in and outside of academia?

Accepted papers:

Session 1
Session 2