Algorithmic Software Culture: Capturing, Theorizing and Regulating Social Media

This research network focuses on the societal impact of social media services, as recent instances of fake news, data manipulation and extensive production of usergenerated content and their effect on democracy, culture and politics. The network is funded by the Danish Agency of Science and Higher Education.

Research area and scientific focus of the activities

Conceptualisations such as post-truth, attention economy and the power of algorithms deserve further consideration. However, as these terms indicate, the media landscape of social media lacks in transparency and the current research network aims to look further into the opacity of social media by focusing on three strands: (1) challenges in capturing data and extracting value from data on social media services (collection, visualisation and analysis of data, (2) providing up-to-date theoretical vocabulary to understand the social construction of algorithms, and (3) to investigate how the user-generated content that citizens provide through social media is regulated. In order to do that, the research network evokes the notion of algorithmic software culture, which puts focus on how social media’s interfaces and algorithms condition citizens’ interactions and build certain pre-determined social constructions. Furthermore, the aim of this network is to scrutinize the contractual agreements which these services make with citizens, and how these relate to EU regulation and the regulation of three nation states: Israel, Turkey and Denmark. The regulatory frameworks that reach special attention are audiovisual media services, telecommunications, data protection and e-commerce.

Exploratory nature of the research network

In current research, there is a gap in binding together the themes of capturing, theorizing and regulating data from social media services. This research network aims to fill in that gap. In methodological terms, each workshop is exploratory as their aim is to evolve and rework current methodological frameworks that will give further insights in the logics of algorithmic software culture. Members of the network will therefore work further with established methods such as data visualisations, social network analysis, interface analysis, discourse analysis and expert interviews, as well as to explore how these can be worked together to inform the proposal’s three themes. The network’s activities focus on the social media platforms Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, as these are very popular and have real societal impact in Denmark, Turkey and Israel. One aim of the network is to test and visualize pre-determined stimuli and content production on these sides, and to register how the algorithms react to same outputs in these three different geographical locations.