Tiziano Bonini, Emiliano Trerè, Francesca Murtula

Algorithmic resistance and solidarity in digital platforms: an ethnographic investigation of the engagement groups on Instagram

  • Abstract

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Keywords: agency, algorithms, Instagram, platform power, moral economy, resistance, solidarity.

In this article, we show the complexity of the relationship existing between the power of platforms and the agency of users through the case study of engagement groups (pods) on Instagram, on which we carried out an eight-month digital ethnography (October 2019-May 2020) to understand the processes of meaning-making that take place within them. Through the discussion of the ethnographic material generated during the fieldwork. we illustrate that this relationship is neither monolithic nor deterministic as many scholars have recently portrayed it. Although users of the platforms are bound to them by highly asymmetrical power relations, there still seems to be a space for the exercise of individual agency, which, in the case that we studied, takes the form of the creation of a collective network of users who support each other and question the discursive rhetoric typical of Instagram, replacing it with an alternative moral code. We propose to frame the activity of these groups as a form, albeit fragile, of «everyday» resistance to the power and moral code of online platforms. Instagram pods are unable to subvert the power exerted by platforms, but they represent the first step, among many necessary ones, towards the construction of more structured forms of resistance in the field of emerging «platformised» cultural industries.

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