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Thursday, October 11 • 4:00pm - 5:30pm
Algorithms and Identity

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UNDERNEATH THE FILTER BUBBLE: THE ROLE OF WEAK TIES AND NETWORK CULTURAL DIVERSITY IN CROSS-CUTTING NEWS EXPOSURE TO NEWS ON SOCIAL MEDIA
SeongJae Jay Min, Donghee Yvette Wohn
While the idea of the filter bubble, in which people are sheltered from challenging and disagreeable information, is a valid concern for democracy, it requires much theoretical sophistication and empirical support. This paper explores the extent and scope of filter bubble effects, employing the concept of “cross-cutting exposure,” or exposure to disagreeable viewpoints, on social media. Survey analysis of 271 Facebook users suggests they do get exposed to cross-cutting information frequently, and that cross-cutting information was more likely to come from weak ties, or acquaintances and strangers in their network, as opposed to strong ties of friends and families. Furthermore, those who have ethnically and religiously more diverse networks were more likely to be exposed to cross-cutting information. Taken together, it is argued that the current concern for filter bubble is rather exaggerated and that one’s network characteristics, such as network compositions and cultural diversity, can influence the degree of the filter bubble.

THE IMPORTANCE OF ALGORITHMIC SELECTION FOR EVERYDAY LIFE: RESULTS FROM A QUALITATIVE, USER-CENTERED APPROACH
Michael Latzer, Noemi Festic, Benjamin Gerwoll-Ronca, Kevin Witzenberger
In societies characterized by growing datafication, algorithmic selection (AS) applications have become deeply embedded in everyday life. Via automated assignment of relevance to selected pieces of information, AS applications are shaping the way people acquire information, perceive the world and ultimately behave. AS applications have thereby become a constitutive part of individuals’ (mediated) construction of reality. On a societal level, they thus shape the formation of social order. The multidisciplinary discourse on opportunities, social risks, ethical challenges and governance of algorithms has so far been predominantly theoretical. Empirical evidence that facilitates a validation of these results remains largely absent. To determine the significance of algorithmic selection for everyday life, an empirical investigation from a user-centered perspective is crucial. By collecting data at the individual level, this article pursues the following questions: How (extensively) are AS applications used in everyday life? How aware are people of AS operating in the services they use? What subjective relative importance, opportunities and risks do they associate with them?

This article presents qualitative results of semi-structured interviews, which are part of a larger innovative mixed-method project. The qualitative results will be used to design a representative nationwide online survey combined with a tracking of online activities. The project investigates the awareness and use of AS and attitudes towards them in four domains of everyday life: social & political orientation, recreation, commercial transactions and socializing. It thereby provides the empirical basis for evidence-based public policy deliberations regarding the social impact of AS and related governance measures.

“IT’S MAGIC” – EXPLORING PROGRAMMER’S AND USER’S NARRATIVES ON ALGORITHMS
Martina Skrubbeltrang Mahnke
This reserach engages into algorithms as communicative contructs. Drawing on the qualitative analysis of 20 interviews with users and programmers, it aims at shedding light on how user's and programmers talk about and make sense of algorithms. Conceptual starting point are the lenses of narratives and counter-narratives. Narratives are the primary stories be told and counter-narratives are stories that challenge these primary narratives and tell alternative stories. The analysis shows that three distinct stories are being told: (1) The magic narrative, (2) the critical narrative and (3) the imperative narrative. The magic narrative is mostly employed by programmers in order to address the complexity of their algorithms. The critical narrative is primarily employed by users, who feel manipulted by algorithms and the imperative narrative relates to the story that algorithms have become inevitable in the digial realm. In conclusion, it can be stated that algorithms as communicative constructs tend to develop a life of their own, disconnected from the actual technical operation mode and related social, cultural and political implications.

PSYCHO-DIGITAL PROPAGANDA: THE TARGETING OF AFFECT AND IDENTITY POLITICS IN COMPUTATIONAL PROPAGANDA
Megan Boler, Elizabeth Davis
How do we best understand the digital production of subjectivity taking place through contemporary practices of “psycho-digital propaganda”--the networked logics of advertising combined with micro-targeting of emotions? In contemporary social media logic, emotion is targeted by a nexus of corporate, military, and propaganda logics. The paper addresses the urgent need for a robust theorization of this “networked subject,” moving beyond liberal conceptions that fail to account for the affects and emotions that constitute contemporary political actors. We explore the manipulation of emotions and affect in psychometric profiling practices used by social media advertising strategies and computational propaganda: specifically, how existing identity politics of race and gender are exploited and incited by these "platform politics". This interdisciplinary research builds on the authors' 2017 SSHRC-funded Knowledge Synthesis Grant (which reviewed social movement theory, media studies, and affect theory to locate promising directions for understanding contemporary mediated subjectivity), in dialogue with cutting-edge academic research and investigative reporting related to psychometric profiling, computational propaganda, and algorithmic governance to inform a critical theorization of subjectivity. We contrast Spinoza's invocation of the necessity for understanding our passions with second-wave feminist practices of "consciousness-raising," to outline a conceptualization of a networked subject prepared for the kind of critical media literacy required in our era of computational propaganda and psychometric profiling.

ME, MYSELF AND THE ALGORITHM: HOW TWITTER USERS TALK ABOUT THE “ALGORITHM” TO PERFORM THEMSELVES
Willian Fernandes Araujo, João Carlos Magalhães
This article presents the results of an exploratory research on how ordinary people talk about algorithms publicly, and in so doing perform aspects of their identities. To do this, we look at messages posted on Twitter in 2017 containing the terms 'Facebook algorithm'. From a qualitative content analysis, we identify three basic types of " discursive algorithmic characters", that is to say, the subjective positions in which the person decides to act when talking about “the algorithm". They are: the critical subjects, the represented subjects, and the agent subjects. We contribute with the current literature by showing how ordinary people construct discursive identities in relation to the “algorithm”. In the end, we raise three hypotheses to be further investigated: algorithmic identities may be consciously co-constructed, algorithms are consumable cultural products, and algorithms structure new types of audiences. Our approach aims to demonstre that studies on “algorithmic identities” should take seriously ordinary users, and stop assuming them as inert victims of a new and supposedly unfathomable kind of power. While multiply limited, their autonomy has not simply vanished.


Thursday October 11, 2018 4:00pm - 5:30pm
Sheraton - Drummond East

Attendees (64)