Algorithms and football communities: are you really friends or just on Facebook?
John McManus (British Institute at Ankara)
Paper short abstract:
This paper adumbrates the constraints on internet-mediated interaction through an ethnography of Turkish diaspora football fans. Whilst foregrounding fans' limitations, it argues that their interaction is best categorised as an ephemeral process of play within the constraints and potentiality of social media.
Paper long abstract:
This paper argues that the impact of internet-mediated communication on globalised communities leads to provincialism more often than cosmopolitan liberalisation. Its ethnographic focus is diaspora football fans in Europe for the Turkish team Beşiktaş. The paper explores who amongst the global Beşiktaş community have the power to shape interaction in internet-informed publics, and why they cast experience in a particularly parochial or global fashion. The paper charts the movement of various Beşiktaş people and paraphernalia: a fan group from London, a flare display, anti-police graffiti, a chant in a stadium. It follows these things in their movements across time and space, online and off, from their creation to their circulation and reception. In doing so, it shows the instigation of parochial interaction - being portioned off in a particular linguistic or software-generated "walled garden" - to be as much the aim of multinational internet businesses, the software they design and the algorithms they deploy, as it is the wishes of the fans. Yet in correcting the bias overemphasising the "democratic" or "liberating" function of social media, it is important not to lose sight of the playful spirit and experimentation that often sits behind the will to connect. I conclude by suggesting that Beşiktaş fans' interaction with the paraphernalia of global football is best characterised as a short-lived process of play. Enjoyment is provoked by the contingency and ephemerality of publics, through being reminded when, why and how fans are constrained by certain platforms or people, and liberated by others.
Social media and inequality