The biography of an algorithm. Performing algorithmic technologies in organizations

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Algorithms are ubiquitous in modern organizations. Typically, researchers have viewed algorithms as self-contained computational tools that either magnify organizational capabilities or generate unintended negative consequences. To overcome this limited understanding of algorithms as stable entities, we propose two moves. The first entails building on a performative perspective to theorize algorithms as entangled, relational, emergent, and nested assemblages that use theories—and the sociomaterial networks they invoke—to automate decisions, enact roles and expertise, and perform calculations. The second move entails building on our dynamic perspective on algorithms to theorize how algorithms evolve as they move across contexts and over time. To this end, we introduce a biographical perspective on algorithms which traces their evolution by focusing on key “biographical moments.” We conclude by discussing how our performativity-inspired biographical perspective on algorithms can help management and organization scholars better understand organizational decision-making, the spread of technologies and their logics, and the dynamics of practices and routines.
Original languageEnglish
JournalOrganization Theory
Issue number2
Early online date28 Apr 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 28 Apr 2021


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