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Amplification, evasion, hijacking: algorithms as repertoire for social movements and the struggle for visibility

Trere, Emiliano ORCID: and Bonini, Tiziano 2024. Amplification, evasion, hijacking: algorithms as repertoire for social movements and the struggle for visibility. Social Movement Studies 23 (3) , pp. 303-319. 10.1080/14742837.2022.2143345

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While scholars of activism have begun to unfold the dynamics of the ‘contentious politics of data’, less explored are the forms of appropriation of algorithms to pursue political objectives by social movements. This article fills this gap by offering a novel theoretical framework, a conceptual vocabulary, and a typology to foreground and articulate algorithmic activism as a subset of algorithmic politics. It starts discussing why an excessive focus on the power of platforms risks disregarding the exploration of agency and provides the definitions of algorithmic agency and politics. Subsequently, it centres on algorithmic activism and demonstrates that algorithms have become the latest addition to the contention repertoire of social movements. Drawing on a heterogeneous set of examples and case studies (including our own research and a database of 250 articles), we propose and examine a typology of three dynamics of algorithmic activism, i.e. algorithmic amplification, evasion, and hijacking. We show that the struggle for visibility (either to achieve it or deny it) lies at the centre of all these types of activism. In the conclusions, we reflect on the key takeaways of our work, clarifying that algorithmic activism (1) exceeds the notion of ‘hashtag activism’ (2) constitutes an agnostic concept (3) is part of an incessant political struggle between algorithmic strategies and tactics.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Journalism, Media and Culture
Publisher: Routledge
ISSN: 1474-2837
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 13 September 2022
Date of Acceptance: 31 October 2022
Last Modified: 11 May 2024 16:18

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