‘In the Loop’: Discretion in Algorithmic Decision Making Seminar with Associate Professor Malte Ziewitz (Cornell University)

Thursday 31.8. 10-12.30, Room U2071, Main Building (Unioninkatu 34)

You are warmly welcome to a seminar on algorithmic decision-making with Associate Professor Malte Ziewitz from the Department of Science & Technology Studies at Cornell University, organised by the REPAIR project.

From welfare provision to credit scoring and content moderation, datafication and algorithmic techniques allow decision making tasks to be wholly or partially delegated to machines. These tools promise ‘smarter’ decisions and more efficient allocation of resources. At the same time, however, employing them in high-stakes decisions that affect people and communities raises questions about human agency, responsibility and accountability in decision making. 

One area of particular concern is the impact of algorithmic techniques on the amount of human discretion involved in evaluation and decision processes. The implementation of public policies provides a fruitful example: while algorithmically guiding or constraining bureaucrats’ discretion may prove beneficial in certain situations, it also presents challenges to public decision making. Algorithmic systems may lack the contextual understanding of human decision makers, potentially compromising the adaptability of decisions to shifting circumstances.

In this seminar, we examine algorithmic discretion – its presence and absence – from the perspectives of both those implementing and those affected by algorithmic decision making. The talks pay critical attention to the breakages, workarounds and renewal efforts involved in managing algorithmic systems, while problematizing black-and-white binaries between human or machine control.


Malte Ziewitz
David Moats
Juho Pääkkönen
Tuukka Lehtiniemi


Minna Ruckenstein & Laura Savolainen