Transparent to whom? No algorithmic accountability without a critical audience

Jakko Kemper (Corresponding author), Daan Kolkman

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

    122 Citations (Scopus)


    Big data and data science transform organizational decision-making. We increasingly defer decisions to algorithms because machines have earned a reputation of outperforming us. As algorithms become embedded within organizations, they become more influential and increasingly opaque. Those who create algorithms may make arbitrary decisions in all stages of the ‘data value chain’, yet these subjectivities are obscured from view. Algorithms come to reflect the biases of their creators, can reinforce established ways of thinking, and may favour some political orientations over others. This is a cause for concern and calls for more transparency in the development, implementation, and use of algorithms in public- and private-sector organizations. We argue that one elementary–yet key–question remains largely undiscussed. If transparency is a primary concern, then to whom should algorithms be transparent? We consider algorithms as socio-technical assemblages and conclude that without a critical audience, algorithms cannot be held accountable.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)2081-2096
    Number of pages16
    JournalInformation, Communication & Society
    Issue number14
    Publication statusPublished - 6 Dec 2019


    • algorithmic accountability
    • algorithmic decision-making
    • algorithms
    • Data science
    • glitch studies
    • transparency


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