Hey Jeremie, I really enjoy your writing and I must admit I was frustrated at the end. I was wondering if you had heard about sociological reflexivity? In epistemology, and more specifically, the sociology of knowledge, reflexivity refers to circular relationships between cause and effect, especially as embedded in human belief structures. A reflexive relationship is bidirectional with both the cause and the effect affecting one another in a relationship in which neither can be assigned as causes or effects.

Within sociology more broadly — the field of origin — reflexivity means an act of self-reference where examination or action “bends back on”, refers to, and affects the entity instigating the action or examination.

It commonly refers to the capacity of an agent to recognise forces of socialisation and alter their place in the social structure. A low level of reflexivity would result in an individual shaped largely by their environment (or “society”). A high level of social reflexivity would be defined by an individual shaping their own norms, tastes, politics, desires, and so on. This is similar to the notion of autonomy. This can of course be a widely criticised dichotomy.

In anthropology however, reflexivity has come to have two distinct meanings, one that refers to the researcher’s awareness of an analytic focus on his or her relationship to the field of study, and the other that attends to the ways that cultural practices involve consciousness and commentary on themselves. This has been rather common within this field since the end of the 1800s, however has gone through a lot of reiterations and academic criticism. Anthropology does largely rely on the ethnographic method or participant observation as such

Recursion occurs when a thing is defined in terms of itself or of its type. Recursion is used in a variety of disciplines ranging from linguistics to logic. The most common application of recursion is in mathematics and computer science, where a function being defined is applied within its own definition.

It is fun you are applying this concept in a certain sense to yourself. Whereas this recursion seems to lend itself to a number of similar instances however seem to relate more to process than the self. However it is the self that passes through or within the process, and as such it may through the procedure refer to another procedure. It is perhaps inevitable that we mix in other parts of our lives in whichever instance we program or enact.

Programmers make fun of this (apparently), “To understand recursion, you must understand recursion.” Another version: “”If you already know what recursion is, just remember the answer…”

Anyhow just tidbits from me, and I sure did both appreciate the thoughts and frustration reading this piece of writing, in the best possible way. It allowed me to connect this thought of recursive in computer science with the reflexivity of social science.

AI Policy and Ethics at www.nora.ai. Student at University of Copenhagen MSc in Social Data Science. All views are my own. twitter.com/AlexMoltzau

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