The Altar of the Algorithm


Eindhoven, The Netherlands
2017

Algorithms are becoming increasingly ubiquitous in our society. More and more they are used to make decisions and govern. They are rapidly becoming important sources of authority in our lives, shaping an abundance of our everyday experiences.

Yet, our understanding of algorithms is very much dependent on ideological ideas about the algorithm. We often conjure up the image of a pure line of computer code, sentient, objective and infallible. To most of us algorithms are black boxes that we are eager to trust. However, this ideological depiction of algorithms is increasingly subjected to critical debate, because it breeds a relation based on faith rather than transparency.

The Altar of the Algorithm is a critical design inquiry into the ideology of algorithms. It explores how design can enrich the debates already happening in philosophy and social sciences, and how designers can position themselves in these debates. Now that algorithms are being deployed in more and more aspects of everyday life, the value of these discussions is becoming increasingly apparent.

This project is a design research project, and to learn more about the scope of the research and the insights it generated the written research report can be downloaded (please note that this is not yet the final version).

The altar references the aesthetical archetypes: that of vintage computer terminals and that of religious artefacts. It consists of a screen, keyboard and thermal printer.

Through the screen and keyboard people can interact with the altar, which tries to convince people to worship algorithms.

The Altar physicalizes the data entered by users, creating a tangible flow of data that normally remains hidden.

Two people interacting with The Altar.

Luke Noothout

Eindhoven, The Netherlands

  luke.noothout@gmail.com
  +31 6 819 731 98

© Luke Noothout 2016