Mining Governance Mechanisms: Innovation Policy, Practice, and Theory Facing Algorithmic Decision-Making
Annalisa Pelizza, Stefan Kuhlmann, "Mining Governance Mechanisms: Innovation Policy, Practice, and Theory Facing Algorithmic Decision-Making", in E.G. Carayannis, D.F.J. Campbell, M. Panagiotis Efthymiopoulos (eds.), Handbook of Cyber-Development, Cyber-Democracy, and Cyber-Defense, Springer International Publishing, 2017, pp. 1-23
The shift from governance of to governance by information infrastructures has major implications for innovation policy. With algorithmic governance, regimes of inclusion/exclusion “sink” in information infrastructures that act as decision-makers. Inclusive governance of innovation thus needs to dig deeper into technological details. This chapter focuses on one major aspect that characterizes algorithmic decision-making, namely, the overlap between policy and practice. Drawing upon the innovation dance metaphor, we ask whether any space for theory can be acknowledged when algorithmic governance tightly couples policy and practice. We first attempt to theoretically answer this question by introducing the Science and Technology Studies notion of “de-scription” as a translation of rules and behaviors from extrasomatic material devices to explicit textual instructions. We propose that space for innovation theory can be conceived of as a descriptive activity. We then exemplify the overlapping argument against the case of blockchain technologies. Blockchains are the algorithmic software underpinning peer-to-peer electronic payment systems – the most renowned of which is Bitcoin. We argue that blockchains “inscribe trust” into software and thus constitute self-standing governance mechanisms. By analyzing a recent controversy in the Bitcoin community, we show that space for theory is more likely to emerge when a controversy arises, which requires description in order to recruit new allies. This evidence suggests that the relationship between theory and inclusion might be inverted: inclusion might not be the outcome of theory, but space for theory is the result of controversies in which opposite factions carry out recruitment strategies.