Wizards of the Web

An Outsider's Journey Into Tech Culture, Programming, and Mathemagics

Jakob Svensson
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In our connected data societies, the importance of algorithms and automated systems is obvious. They determine search engines’ rankings, what driverless cars do when a child appears on the road, and stock market changes. Today data-driven algorithms and automated systems are everywhere.

While algorithms and automated systems themselves are often a topic of controversy and debate, this book is about the people behind them; it is an account of the cultures, values, and imaginations that guide programmers in their work designing and engineering software and digital technology. Technology, it is argued, is not neutral and developed free of context. And since algorithms and automated systems exercise power in connected data societies, it is pivotal to understand their creators, who could be labelled, it is argued in the book, Wizards of the Web.

This book is the result of an ethnographically inspired study based on interviews with software engineers and programmers, observations made at tech headquarters and conferences in Denmark, Sweden, Brazil, Germany, India, and the US, and a case study of the introduction of algorithmic automation on the front page of a Scandinavian newspaper.

The author, Jakob Svensson, is professor of Media and Communication Studies at Malmö University. The book is part of the research project Behind the Algorithm (funded by the Swedish Research Council, 2018–2020).

Read an article about the book in our newsfeed

Read an interview with Jakob Svensson at NordMedia Network


  • Preface
  • Chapter 1. Introduction: The humans behind the screen
    • Who is this book for and why should you read it?
    • Outline 20
  • Chapter 2. Situating the study
    • The importance of digital technology in contemporary data societies
    • Who are the programmers?
    • Empirical data gathering
    • Culture as an analytical tool
    • Delineations, limitations, & ethics
  • Chapter 3. A culture of many cultures
    • Hippie culture
    • Hacker culture
    • Entrepreneurial & startup culture
    • Middle-class, masculine, young, & suburban culture
  • Chapter 4. Navigating a culture of contradictions
    • Progressive hippies vs. libertarian entrepreneurs
    • Pranking dudes vs. techno-missionaries
    • Shy outcasts vs. attention seekers
    • Self-confidence vs. asking for help
  • Chapter 5. The geek genius among beanbags & unicorns in Lego land
    • Beanbags
    • Unicorns
    • Prometheus
    • The kings (& queen) of Geekistan
    • In Lego land
  • Chapter 6. Mind-blowing flow, grit, & data-driven development
    • Data-driven development
    • Flow100Grit
    • The mind-blowing demo
  • Chapter 7. Innovative & creative solutions for a better future
    • Solution creativity
    • Progress, the belief in a better future
    • Disruption & innovation
    • In data & patterns we believe
  • Chapter 8. Wizards of the web
    • Among cyborg mediums, magicians, & programmer gods
    • Magic through mastery of programming languages
    • Wizards of the web138From hackers to wizards
  • Chapter 9. Summary & outlook
    • Summary
    • Mathemagics
    • Bruno, making the world magic again
    • Modernity & mathemagics
    • The magic of dying
    • The power of imagination
  • References
Cover to the book Wizards of the web


Antal sidor: 172
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