How global workers, influencers, and activists develop tactics of algorithmic resistance by appropriating and repurposing the same algorithms that control our lives.
Algorithms are all around us, permeating more and more aspects of our daily lives. While accounts of platform power tend to come across as bleak and monolithic, Algorithms of Resistance shows how people can resist algorithms across a variety of domains. Drawing from rich ethnographic materials and perspectives from both the Global North and South, authors Tiziano Bonini and Emiliano Treré explore how people appropriate and reconfigure algorithms to pursue their objectives in three domains of everyday life: gig work, cultural industries, and politics. They reveal how forms of algorithmic agency and resistance are endemic and mundane and how the platform society is a contested battleground of contrasting forces.
Bonini and Treré begin by outlining their key theoretical framework of moral economies. This framework argues that algorithms exist on a continuum. At its two extremes are two competing moral economies: the user moral economy and the platform moral economy. From here, Algorithms of Resistance chronicles the various inventive ways that individuals can work to achieve agency and resist the ubiquitous power of algorithms. Casting a wide net with a diverse range of case studies, Bonini and Treré reveal the moral imperative for all of us—from delivery drivers to artists to social movements—to resist algorithms.
Tiziano Bonini is Associate Professor in Sociology of Culture and Communication in the Department of Social, Political, and Cognitive Sciences at the University of Siena in Italy.
Emiliano Treré is Reader in Data Agency and Media Ecologies at Cardiff University's School of Journalism, Media, and Culture. He is the author of Hybrid Media Activism, winner ofthe Outstanding Book Award of the ICA Interest Group “Activism, Communication, and Social Justice.”
“Bonini and Treré's superb analysis of how users struggle with algorithmic power is a wonderful guide to the dynamics that animate the platform ecosystem. Essential reading for anyone interested in the sociotechnical processes of contemporary media.”
José van Dijck, Distinguished Professor of Media and Digital Societies, Utrecht University; author of The Culture of Connectivity; coauthor of The Platform Society
“A celebration of human agency and resilience in the face of an ever-more pervasive algorithmic culture. Bonini and Treré analyze the many ways that resistance is possible.”
William Uricchio, Professor, Comparative Media Studies, MIT; coauthor of Collective Wisdom
“Based on rich field work, digital ethnography, and interviews in India, China, Mexico, Italy, and Spain, this book provides a deeply insightful exploration of how gig workers, creators, and activists tactically engage with platform algorithms.”
Thomas Poell, Professor of Data, Culture & Institutions, University of Amsterdam; coauthor of The Platform Society and Platforms and Cultural Production
The open access edition of this book was made possible by generous funding and support from MIT Press Direct to Open