Valuing the manual: The demarcation of embodied practices within algorithmic decision-making processes

David Gareth Beer, Alison Wallace, Roger Burrows, Alexandra Ciocanel, James Cussens

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This article takes the notion of the manual as a focal point for understanding the demarcation and evaluation of embodied practices within algorithmic decision-making processes. Focusing on the use of the term manual reveals the limits of automation and the value attached to human intervention. Drawing on extensive qualitative interview data, it is concerned with how those within the UK housing sector approach questions of embodiment and materiality through the lens of the manual. We show how this notion is used to separate human input from algorithmic automation. The article explores how value is attached to the manual and how the term is involved in valuing human interventions. It begins by examining how the manual demarcates spaces and practices outside or alongside the algorithmic. It then focuses upon three manifestations the manual takes within these articulations. First by looking at the manual as the completion of a form, then the manual as a check and finally by looking at the manual as approval. The article develops a central argument concerning processes of valuing and evaluating the manual, that are tied up with these visions and demarcations.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages19
JournalSocial and Cultural Geography
Early online date2 May 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2 May 2024

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© 2024 The Author(s).

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