Rendered Inoperable: Uber and the Collapse of Algorithmic Power

APRJA 7(1), 2018

Today the algorithmic moves off the white- board and into the world, producing subjectivities, articulating relationships, and shaping behaviours. Yet to obtain its objectives, the algorithmic must draw upon bodies, flows, and materials — matter which is contentious and agents which have their own intentionalities. Efficacy cannot simply be assumed, but must be incessantly negotiated via a set of procedures. What are the operations needed to incorporate subjects and spaces into regimes of algorithmic coordination? By examining the ride-sharing platform Uber as a case-study, three operations are identified as critical: encapsulation, enlistment and enchantment. When these operations are incomplete, algorithmic traction on a subject slips away, producing an array of undesired and unanticipated effects.