Toward a politics of anonymity

Algorithmic actors in the constitution of collective agency and the implications for global economic justice movements

Authored by: Ned Rossiter , Soenke Zehle

The Routledge Companion to Alternative Organization

Print publication date:  December  2013
Online publication date:  January  2014

Print ISBN: 9780415782265
eBook ISBN: 9780203725351
Adobe ISBN: 9781135005399


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Social media has transformed itself into a set of interlocking operating systems, designed not simply to facilitate established forms of communicative usage and political organization but to serve as platforms for a new generation of commercial services. As users shift their online activity to social media sites, they accelerate the decline of a destination web whose open protocols are being replaced by closed environments modeled on the walled-garden architectures of online stores. Organized around user-as-product paradigms that encourage information sharing to build massive databases, the political economy of this transformation of user agency has already been analyzed as biolinguistic capitalism, or the social production of value. Complementing these analyses of an expropriation of leisure time, the effective enmeshment of communicative and economic practice, and the integration of users into stream-based paradigms of information sharing, we argue that alternative modes of organization must engage the production of standards and protocols that shape the codes and infrastructures of expression within which organization subsists. At stake is not simply the role of real-time media in processes of organization, but a politics of anonymity that acknowledges the central role of algorithmic actors in the constitution of collective agency. By “algorithmic actors” we mean the grammar, rules or parameters of code which can shape the organization of people and things (Galloway, 2006; Fuller and Goffey, 2012). Just like organizing, code has political effects.

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