A new twist on cyberfear might be surfacing this season, as people blame algorithms for embarrassments.
For example, a Solid Gold Bomb t-shirt advised us to
What a terrible product!
But wait, there's more. As one critic notes, this might be "Algorithms as excuse. Algorithms as plausible deniability for your poor taste." Listen to the apology text:
[W]e did not in any way deliberately create the offensive t-shirts in question and it was the result of a scripted programming process that was compiled by only one member of our staff...
So they blame the machine, while admitting some human involvement. It's akin to blaming computer games for mass killings.
Not convinced? Read on:
Solid Gold Bomb founder Michael Fowler decided to create a flood of parodies. He gathered up a list of words, threw them into a script and pressed ‘go’.
Fowler describes culling a list of ‘millions’ of generated phrases down to 700, and checking the phrases for graphical approximation to the original, apparently without noting the contents.
"without noting the contents". This isn't machine error, but a human mistake. And:
He claims to be as surprised as the rest of us that an offensive combination ended up in the database. (In fact, several offensive combinations showed up, which is to be expected if you put words like ‘rape’ or ‘choke’ or ‘hit’ in your list of verbs.)
It's important to keep our critical gaze turned on cyberculture and its emerging aspects. But we also need to bear in mind our (American, at least) tendency to shift blame onto the machines.
(thanks to Jesse Walker; image via BoingBoing)