Article ID: CBB032658588

Styles of Valuation: Algorithms and Agency in High-throughput Bioscience (2020)


In science and technology studies today, there is a troubling tendency to portray actors in the biosciences as “cultural dopes” and technology as having monolithic qualities with predetermined outcomes. To remedy this analytical impasse, this article introduces the concept styles of valuation to analyze how actors struggle with valuing technology in practice. Empirically, this article examines how actors in a bioscientific laboratory struggle with valuing the properties and qualities of algorithms in a high-throughput setting and identifies the copresence of several different styles. The question that the actors struggle with is what different configurations of algorithms, devices, and humans are “good bioscience,” that is, what do the actors perform as a good distribution of agency between algorithms and humans? A key finding is that algorithms, robots, and humans are valued in multiple ways in the same setting. For the actors, it is not apparent which configuration of agency and devices is more authoritative nor is it obvious which skills and functions should be redistributed to the algorithms. Thus, rather than tying algorithms to one set of values, such as “speed,” “precision,” or “automation,” this article demonstrates the broad utility of attending to the multivalence of algorithms and technology in practice.

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Authors & Contributors
Bauer, Susanne
Borch, Christian
MacKenzie, Donald A.
Stevens, Hallam
Tresch, John
Wajcman, Judy
Science, Technology, and Human Values
Social Studies of Science
Osiris: A Research Journal Devoted to the History of Science and Its Cultural Influences
Perspectives on Science
Tapuya: Latin American Science, Technology and Society
New York University Press
Duke University Press
Oxford University Press
Science and technology studies (STS)
Technology and society
Computers and computing
Artificial intelligence
Information technology
Mouffe, Chantal
Charles Perrow
Time Periods
21st century
20th century, late
United States
United Kingdom

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