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Explanations as governance? Investigating practices of explanation in algorithmic system design

Powell, Alison (2021) Explanations as governance? Investigating practices of explanation in algorithmic system design. European Journal of Communication, 36 (4). 362 - 375. ISSN 0267-3231

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Identification Number: 10.1177/02673231211028376


The algorithms underpinning many everyday communication processes are now complex enough that rendering them explainable has become a key governance objective. This article examines the question of 'who should be required to explain what, to whom, in platform environments'. By working with algorithm designers and using design methods to extrapolate existing capacities to explain aglorithmic functioning, the article discusses the power relationships underpinning explanation of algorithmic function. Reviewing how key concepts of transparency and accountability connect with explainability, the paper argues that reliance on explainability as a governance mechanism can generate a dangerous paradox which legitimates increased reliance on programmable infrastructure as expert stakeholders are reassured by their ability to perform or receive explanations, while displacing responsibility for understandings of social context and definitions of public interest

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2021 SAGE
Divisions: Media and Communications
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HE Transportation and Communications
Q Science > QA Mathematics > QA75 Electronic computers. Computer science
Date Deposited: 12 Jul 2021 14:21
Last Modified: 18 Jan 2022 12:39

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