Working and organizing in the age of the learning algorithm

06 Jun 2018

Learning algorithms, technologies that generate responses, classifications, or dynamic predictions that resemble those of a knowledge worker, raise important research questions for organizational scholars related to work and organizing. We suggest that such algorithms are distinguished by four consequential aspects: black-boxed performance, comprehensive digitization, anticipatory quantification, and hidden politics. These aspects are likely to alter work and organizing in qualitatively different ways beyond simply signaling an acceleration of long-term technology trends. Our analysis indicates that learning algorithms will transform expertise in organizations, reshape work and occupational boundaries, and offer novel forms of coordination and control. Thus, learning algorithms can be considered performative due to the extent to which their use can shape and alter work and organizational realities. Their rapid deployment requires scholarly attention to societal issues such as the extent to which the algorithm is authorized to make decisions, the need to incorporate morality in the technology, and their digital iron-cage potential.