Algorithms and their impact are constantly the centre of debates and opinions regarding the future of social media engagement and engagement within the public and political sphere.

Algorithms written in blue and white text
Image – Deseret News 2018, Algorithms

Algorithms play a dramatic role in shaping the way we communicate as well as the way information manifests to its audience. This is because algorithms can be defined as any repeated code, action or process that when followed result in an action. Crawford (2015) discusses how algorithms are agonistic; argumentative and striving for effect this reflects how algorithms are linked to political institutions due to their inherent power structures.

Algorithms work highly within contested online spaces including YouTube, Facebook and all other social platforms were incompatible ideas and perspectives are meant to co-exist (Crawford, 2015) much like the political sphere. Crawford (2015) provides a clear example of this by highlighting how Amazon uses algorithmic processes to determine the status of published books; such a normal practice actually reflects how corporations use algorithms to invite and imagine an ideal public by simply determining the content consumers should engage with.

Algorithms also make autocratic decisions which are meant to produce an outcome of a desired publics the exact way in which political decisions are meant to be made within the political sphere. Similarly Gillespie (2014) reaffirms this idea by discussing how algorithms play a significant role in selecting what information is considered relevant a crucial feature of our participation in public life. They essentially almost subconsciously provide a means to know what there is to know and how to know it, to participate is social and political discourse allowing individuals to familiarise themselves with the publics they participate in (Gillespie, 2014 pg. 167).

Bucher (2018) however agrees to the ability of algorithms to shape social and political decisions from what we read, watch and think. To also suggesting that the real question lies as to how algorithms have become apart of such social and political practices and how different organisations particularly political organisations purposely enlist them to be powerful factors in the brokering of communication, information and society. Highlighting how their ability to be manipulated by individuals is the reason why algorithms become inflexible and lack intelligence to process information the same way the human mind can. Ultimately impacting politics to be agonistic and bias for the gain and profit of their maker.



Crawford, K (2015); “Can Algorithms be Agonistic? Ten Scenes from Life in Calculated Publics”, Science, Technology and Human Values, v41n2, pp77-92

Crawford, Kate, Tarleton, Gillespie. 2014. “What is a Flag For? Social Media Reporting Tools and The Vocabulary of Complaint.” New Media & Society, July 15, 2014

Bucher, T 2018; “If Then, Algorithmic Power and Politics”, Oxford Studies in Digital Politics Series, Oxford University Press

Image – Chandra Johnson, 2017, How algorithms affect out way of life, viewed on 27 August 2018, <>



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s