The problem of researching a recursive society: algorithms, data coils and the looping of the social

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JournalBig Data and Society
DateAccepted/In press - 15 May 2022
Original languageEnglish


This commentary article outlines and explores the key problem that faces anyone interested in researching and understanding what might be thought of as a recursive society. It reflects on the problem that is posed by the layering of multiple feedback loops as a result of algorithmic sorting and data processes. This article is concerned with the difficulties of understanding the social where recursive algorithmic processes have repeatedly shaped outcomes, practices, relations and actions over time. This is not just about the sinking of algorithms into the everyday, it is about the way that loop-upon-loop of data processes lead to the social world itself being recursive. This repeated looping is described here as a kind of data coiling. The article argues for a focus on recursivity and for an engagement with the conceptual problems and questions that this notion implies.

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