Algorithms as organizational figuration: The sociotechnical arrangements of a fintech start-up

Sara Dahlman*, Ib Tunby Gulbrandsen, Sine Nørholm Just

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

Abstract

Building on critical approaches that understand algorithms in terms of communication, culture and organization, this paper offers the supplementary conceptualization of algorithms as organizational figuration, defined as material and meaningful sociotechnical arrangements that develop in spatiotemporal processes and are shaped by multiple enactments of affordance–agency relations. We develop this conceptualization through a case study of a Danish fintech start-up that uses machine learning to create opportunities for sustainable pensions investments. By way of ethnographic and literary methodology, we provide an in-depth analysis of the dynamic trajectory in and through which the organization gives shape to and takes shape from its key algorithmic tool, mapping the shifting sociotechnical arrangements of the start-up, from its initial search for a viable business model through the development of the algorithm to the public launch of its product. On this basis, we argue that conceptualizing algorithms as organizational figuration enables us to detail not only what algorithms do but also what they are.

Original languageEnglish
JournalBig Data & Society
Volume8
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2021

Keywords

  • Algorithms
  • ethnography
  • figuration
  • fintech
  • living maps
  • sociotechnical arrangements

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