“It’s the moment you’re being squeezed as an asset”

Andrew Huff | Flickr

From “I thought my Instagram was all mine, until the algorithm proved me wrong,” by Nellie Bowles in the Guardian (3/17/16), about Instagram’s switch to an algorithm-based personal feed:

“You create this identity for yourself, like your little secret life that interacts with other secret lives, and if that gets manipulated, it can feel disorienting,” said Lacey Noonan, a psychotherapist as Well Counseling in the heart of San Francisco’s tech-centric Potrero Hill. “It happens all the time”…

As I mould myself into these platforms, I claw out a sense of control over what is mine – my profile, my feed. Instagram and Twitter encouraged this sense of ownership and agency. The move toward an algorithm that the company curates is a reminder of both who’s in charge and just how much of myself I’ve given to them. My apps have become so blended into my life, to skew one toward the machine is to skew them both.

Internet historian and University of Michigan professor Chuck Severance said it was “nice” I ever thought I had ownership of something like my Twitter account. Severance teaches a popular class online called Internet History, Technology, and Security and goes by @DrChuck to his 14,000 Twitter followers.

“When a company makes your feed algorithmic, it’s the moment that you’re being squeezed as an asset,” Severance said. “In some way it’s worse than a loss of agency. It’s them reminding you that you’re not the owner, you’re the product. You do know that, right?”

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