June 2021

In the June meeting, we returned to the theme of resistant forms of users and data. Specifically, we discussed Striphas’ (2015) Algorithmic culture and Bridges’ (2021) Digital failure: Unbecoming the “good” data subject through entropic, fugitive, and queer data. Striphas goes through the etymologies of the culture keywords for out digital society: information; crowd; and algorithm. Through outlining how these terms change over time, Striphas places our current society in a cultural timeline, illuminating its malleability rather than inevitability. Bridges takes on the malleability of digital culture (and digital platforms) in a more direct manner, examining cases in which users directly challenge platforms. Examples are given of users challenging stereotypical classifications of people on ImageNet and CharlieShe, a sex worker who resists Instagram’s normative ideas on the body and what is ‘acceptable’ to be made visible. The ultimate question (as we often come back to in these sessions) is where do we go next from these examples? Is ‘unbecoming’ a good data subject as explored here really just being a bad data subject, rather than totally unbecoming the data subject? Is this an acceptable amount of resistance or does it simply expand the view of the platform, with the ‘bad data subject’ being subsumed within a wider platformised system of classification? Finally, if we are to reconstruct the new, does this require a clear and explicit language and labelling system, returning us to the same issue faced by Striphas in 2015 (and many before him)?

Notes on the readings can be found here.

Minutes from the meeting can be found here.

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