Algorithms and Oppression

Net neutrality is a very interesting topic that deserves much more attention than it is currently receiving. The idea that pre-determined algorithms are embedded in all digital environments and filter information and knowledge for the individual is truly scary. At what point does the individual lose control over the information he/she seeks out or consumes. In an extreme sense, at what point does the individual become less human and is stripped of his/her more unpredictable human qualities and characteristics. Talk of algorithms and their subtle and subversive nature reminds me of a book I have been reading for my ethnography, “Understanding Popular Culture” by John Fiske. In this book, John Fiske discusses the capitalist intentions of all entities that exist, and the capitalist tendencies of all individuals. Fiske describes these intentions as simply being the need to participate in capitalist culture as a means of self-expression and the construction of identity. Fiske describes the existence and success of capitalism being directly related to the perpetuation of socio-economic differentiation in the confines of a societal structure. It is through this social-economic difference that various urges arise and compel the individual to act and react through the use of the capitalist market. The market, or brands, at this point becomes a means of rebellion and revolting that in the end always manage to further stimulate the economy.

Fiske’s capitalist conversation and this discussion revolving around the invisible hierarchy of the web, enforced by algorithmic structural elements, all work together to further differentiate individuals based on social-economic values. Is this true? It’s hard for me to believe that I live within a societal system that forges monetary value from human oppression. I guess the internet is a more free form of oppression, rather than physical abuse, it oppresses the individual in a subtle and enjoyable manner.

Here’s the link to a really good ted talk explaining the algorithmic nature of the internet:

Leave a Reply