THE PRODUCTION OF ONLINE SPACE: FACEBOOK AND ALGORITHMIC METAPOWER

Martin Berg

Abstract


Explicitly focusing on Facebook, this paper aims at exploring the effects of algorithms as social structures and strives at advancing the study of how algorithms contribute to a production of online space and its impact on various social processes concerning self and subjectivity.1 The opening section revolves around a literature review which establishes an understanding of how the algorithmic processing of personal and interactional data on Facebook forms the basis for the emergence of a certain kind of ”metapower”. The following section describes core aspects of the Facebook interface which are subsequently elaborated by turning to an empirical study of approximately 470 self-reflexive diary entries about Facebook use, authored by self-selected Facebook users from Sweden between the ages of 22 and 68. The final section of this paper aims at elaborating the theoretical and empirical readings by turning to the core readings in the emerging field of software studies (Kitchin & Dodge 2011, Manovich 2013) along with the works of Henri Lefevbre (1999/1974), Georg Simmel (2009/1908) and George H. Mead (1934). In overall terms, this paper suggests that spatiality is still an important facet of contemporary online sphere yet in a radically different sense than early accounts of online space proposed. By exploring the changed characteristics of online space, this paper advances the ongoing discussion of algorithms as social structures as well as the possible surfacing of new forms of power and their general implications for everyday life (online). These are all matters that need to be taken seriously if research is supposed to establish an understanding of the complex nature of the digital world and the ways in which it feeds into, affects and become part of material social spaces.

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