As social media users have become increasingly aware of algorithms and their potentially negative effects, I argue that some users are challenging algorithmic systems of control. This thesis examines anti-algorithmic tactics on online platforms — ways in which users actively aim to subvert algorithmic systems. I investigate anti-algorithmic tactics through two case studies of social media users responding to algorithmic content moderation and content curation. The first case study investigates how Black Facebook users have used alternative spellings to avoid detection by content moderation algorithms. The second case study investigates how users of Gobo, a social media browsing tool, have used tactics to minimize the influence of content curation algorithms on their social media feeds. In these case studies, I conduct close readings of public social media posts and interviews with social media users to better understand the perceptions around algorithms and motivations for anti-algorithmic tactics. Based on insights from these case studies, I conclude this thesis by discussing design frameworks that address concerns around transparency and user agency in algorithmic systems.
About Anna Chung
Anna Woorim Chung is a digital media researcher and designer. She explores ways of representing spaces and information through mediums like VR, 360 video, and data visualization.
Born and raised in southeast Michigan, Anna first made her way out west to attend Pomona College, where she studied Media Studies and Computer Science. Along the way, she worked on VR research at the USC Institute for Creative Technologies and published a paper on Computer Science education.
Anna’s current projects aim to engage people in understandings of gentrification and civic engagement. At MIT, she joins the Center for Civic Media, where she hopes to continue working on projects and tools that critically examine digital and physical spaces and make them more inclusive.
After school, Anna loves exploring cities, playing basketball, improving her Korean, and napping.
Thesis: Subverting the Algorithm: Examining Anti-Algorithmic Tactics on Social Media