Language of Algorithms: Agency, Metaphors, and Deliberations in AI Discourses

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Algorithmic technologies, concepts, and practices as socio-technical constructs emerge and proliferate through language in society. Discourses around Artificial Intelligence (AI) shape our collective imagination, affect technological development, and influence policymaking. What can we learn from critically examining wide-ranging discourses around AI, using a mix of qualitative methods and Natural Language Processing (NLP), both among actors who influence its development and the publics who are affected by it? In this chapter, we examine the "language of algorithms" to make sense of AI Watch reports and stakeholder responses to the proposed AI Act in the European Union. Linguistic devices such as metaphors, metonymy, and personification reveal how we conceptualize, narrate, contest, or attribute agency to AI systems. Saying that AI is “trustworthy”, “biased”, or “transforming society” are discursive acts that implicitly attribute a sense of agency to technology rather than the human actors involved in its creation. Critically examining such AI discourses reveals how language affects attitudes, influences practices and policies, and shapes future imaginaries around AI.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHandbook of Critical Studies of Artificial Intelligence
EditorsSimon Lindgren
PublisherEdward Elgar
Number of pages15
ISBN (Print)978-1-80392-855-5
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2023
MoE publication typeA3 Book section, Chapters in research books


  • artificial intelligence
  • language
  • discourse
  • metaphors
  • agency
  • natural language processing


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