Algorithmic Sociality (Sandra Robinson & Robert Seyfert)


Image Credit: David Robinson

This seminar will analyze how digital technologies have transformed our life and social relationships. How have algorithms changed the way we encounter others or our presentation of self--whether through our interactions on social media platforms or through devices to measure the performance of the self? Powerful algorithmic mechanisms shape our everyday communicative practice, our relations to others, the body, and the self, and in turn our everyday practices can shape algorithmic technologies. How might vernacular (everyday) practices (even inadvertently) undermine the intentions of algorithmic technologies? What are the responses to such deviations? These questions are approached through critical engagement with algorithms as part of our increasingly datafied world. How might we explore the power structures that emerge in and through algorithmic technologies in relation to gender, race, class, and other categorizations? Which critical (and perhaps subversive) practices are possible and feasible in order to evade and resist constant algorithmic evaluation, judgment and nudging?

Primary readings

  • ROBERGE, J & SEYFERT, R (2016): “What are algorithmic cultures?” In: Robert Seyfert and Jonathan Roberge (eds.) Algorithmic Cultures. Essays on meaning, performance and new technologies. London: Routledge, 1-25.
  • ROBINSON, S. 2018. “Databases and Doppelgängers: New Articulations of Power,” Configurations, 2018, 26:411–440.
  • CHUN, W.H.K., 2016. “Big Data as Drama,” ELH, 83(2), pp. 363-382.  
  • BIVENS, R., HAIMSON, O. 2016. “Baking Gender Into Social Media Design: How Platforms Shape Categories for Users and Advertisers,” Social Media + Society October-December, pp. 1–12.
  • BEUSCART, J-S & MELLET, K (2016) “Shaping consumers’ online voices. Algorithmic apparatus or evaluation culture?” In: Robert Seyfert and Jonathan Roberge (eds.) Algorithmic Cultures. Essays on meaning, performance and new technologies. London: Routledge, 76-94.
  • GIBBS, M, MEESE, J, ARNOLD, D, NANSEN, B & CARTER, M (2015): #Funeral and Instagram: death, social media, and platform vernacular. Information, Communication & Society 18(3): 255-268.

Supplemental explorations

  • BROOKER, P, DUTTON, W, GREIFFENHAGEN, C (2017): What would Wittgenstein say about social media? Qualitative Research 17(6): 610–626.
  • BRUNS, A & BURGESS, J. (2011). The use of twitter hashtags in the formation of adhoc publics. Sixth European consortium for political research general conference, Iceland (25–27 August), University of Iceland, Reykjavik.
  • DIDZIOKAITE, G, SAUKKO P & GREIFFENHAGEN C (2017) The mundane experience of everyday calorie trackers: Beyond the metaphor of Quantified Self. New Media & Society. Online first publication (March 24, 2017): 1–18.
  • INTRONA, L D (2011): The enframing of code: Agency, originality and the plagiarist. Theory, Culture & Society 28(6): 113-141.
  • LICOPPE, C, RIVIERE, C.A. & MOREL, J (2016) Grindr casual hook-ups as interactional achievements. New Media & Society 18(11): 2540–2558.
  • LUPTON, D. 2018. “How do data come to matter? Living and becoming with personal data,” Big Data & Society July–December, pp. 1–11.
  • ROBINSON, S. 2016. “The Vital Network: An Algorithmic Milieu of Communication and Control,” Communication +1, vol. 5, available at < >
  • SCHÄFER, M., VAN ES, K. 2017, ‘Introduction,’ in The Datafied Society: Studying Culture through Data (Amsterdam University Press); if interested, see other chapters in this open access e-book, available at <>
  • SEYFERT, R (forthcoming): Algorithms as regulatory objects.
  • VAN DIJCK, J. 2014. “Datafication, dataism and dataveillance: Big Data between scientific paradigm and ideology,” Surveillance & Society 12(2): 197-208.