193.044 Critical Algorithm Studies Canceled
This course is in all assigned curricula part of the STEOP.
This course is in at least 1 assigned curriculum part of the STEOP.

2023S, SE, 2.0h, 3.0EC


  • Semester hours: 2.0
  • Credits: 3.0
  • Type: SE Seminar
  • Format: Presence

Learning outcomes

After successful completion of the course, students are able to identify crucial points of critique and problematic issues in relation to algorithmic systems. They have gained an overview over the topics Inequality, Bias, Fairness, Transparency and Accountability, and gained in-depth understanding of at least one of those topics.

Subject of course

The seminar will introduce participants to the emerging and interdisciplinary field of Critical Algorithm Studies. Blocked weekly discussions of assigned reading material will focus on interdependencies between society, culture and algorithms, and critical reflections of their ethics and politics. The course aims to bridge the gap between bleeding-edge technological advancements and the scientific and social discourse, by introducing perspectives from academic disciplines such as STS, Sociology and Law.

Preliminary list of topics

  1. Introduction to Critical Algorithm Studies
  2. (Future) Imaginaries
  3. Computer Science Culture
  4. (Re-)producing & Combating Inequality through Technology
  5. Critical Data Studies
  6. Transparency and Accountability of Algorithmic Systems
  7. The Politics of Algorithms
  8. Case Study Session

Open Learning Questions

  • Why study social and political aspects of algorithmic systems?
  • What constitutes an algorithm? What do users/developers/society understand about algorithms?
  • Why do algorithms have embedded values and biases?
  • How can we conceptualise algorithmic fairness, develop ethics for algorithmic systems and deal with accountability in complex algorithmic assemblages made of developers, users, management, law, code, computers, and many others?
  • How does culture and society influence the creation of algorithms and vice versa?
  • How does more algorithmic management foster the erasure of human judgement through increasing rationalisation and automation? What are benefits and issues here?
  • What methods and approaches are available to study algorithmic systems?
  • What futures involving algorithms are currently being imagined?

Introductory Materials

Many of the seminar's topics are controversial and highly discussed. We provide the following materials as motivational introduction to some exemplary topics of the course:

Course Modalities

After an initial talk at the beginning of the semester (introduction and preliminary topic assignment), the remaining sessions will be held weekly towards the end of the semester. During each session, one or more participants will present the topic of the week after a short, general introduction by the lecturers. The presenters are required read the papers on the topic, present the content to the other participants and conclusions and prepare a list of discussion points. Each participant has to write a final seminar paper after the presentations reflecting on the content of the seminar.

Teaching methods

Blocked weekly online discussions of assigned reading material will focus on interdependencies between society, culture and algorithms, and critical reflections of their ethics and politics. Questions and contributions to the discussions are supplement the mandatory reading, presentations of selected literature and the final seminar paper.

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the the course modalities may change on short notice, in which case some or all units may be held via Zoom. Grading won't be affected in this case.

Mode of examination


Additional information

Contrary to the listed eligibility for different curricula below, the course is at least eligible for the following modules:

  • Module “Emergent Ethical Challenges in Informatics”

    • Master Media Informatics [066 935]

  • Module “Fachübergreifende Qualifikationen”

    • Master Logic and Computation[066 931]

    • Master Visual Computing[066 932]

    • Master Medical Informatics[066 936]

    • Master Software & Information Engineering[066 937]

    • Master Computer Engineering[066 938]


Please consider the plagiarism guidelines of TU Wien when writing your seminar paper: Directive concerning the handling of plagiarism (PDF)



Examination modalities

The following student participation determines the grade:

  • Questions and discussion contributions
  • Presentation
  • Final Seminar Paper

Course registration

Not necessary


Study CodeObligationSemesterPrecon.Info
066 935 Media and Human-Centered Computing Mandatory elective


No lecture notes are available.

Previous knowledge

No specific requirements. Preexisting knowledge of societal aspects of computer science can be helpful.


  • Attendance Required!