A cultural approach to algorithmic bias in games

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Abstract

As algorithms come to govern every aspect of our lives—from bank loans, to job applications, to traffic patterns, to our media consumption patterns—communication research has become increasingly concerned with how we govern algorithms. Building on the methodological frameworks established by critical information researchers like Safiya Noble, Tarleton Gillespie, and Nick Seaver, this essay argues that we do not need to reverse engineer the “black box” to understand its impacts because they can be found through qualitative methodologies instead. This essay rejects the “black box” as an epistemic premise upon which critical algorithmic literacies can be built by using discourse analysis to observe how the unknowable language of the algorithm is deployed discursively within gamer communities to establish and maintain patriarchal power. This essay shows how the “black box” is used by fan communities to advance a patriarchal understanding of what we term paradigms of “balance” and “realism” in game design.

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Trammell, A., & Cullen, A. L. L. (2020). A cultural approach to algorithmic bias in games. New Media and Society. https://doi.org/10.1177/1461444819900508

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