cover of book

The Burden of Choice: Recommendations, Subversion, and Algorithmic Culture
by Jonathan Cohn
Rutgers University Press, 2019
Cloth: 978-0-8135-9782-9 | eISBN: 978-0-8135-9784-3 | Paper: 978-0-8135-9781-2
Library of Congress Classification HF5415.32.C643 2019
Dewey Decimal Classification 306.3


The Burden of Choice examines how recommendations for products, media, news, romantic partners, and even cosmetic surgery operations are produced and experienced online. Fundamentally concerned with how the recommendation has come to serve as a form of control that frames a contemporary American as heteronormative, white, and well off, this book asserts that the industries that use these automated recommendations tend to ignore and obscure all other identities in the service of making the type of affluence they are selling appear commonplace. Focusing on the period from the mid-1990s to approximately 2010 (while this technology was still novel), Jonathan Cohn argues that automated recommendations and algorithms are far from natural, neutral, or benevolent. Instead, they shape and are shaped by changing conceptions of gender, sexuality, race, and class. With its cultural studies and humanities-driven methodologies focused on close readings, historical research, and qualitative analysis, The Burden of Choice models a promising avenue for the study of algorithms and culture.

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