Accepted Paper:

"Don't let them feed you with organic sorts": demystifying 'organic' ordering on social media with rhythmedia  


Elinor Carmi (City, University of London.)

Paper short abstract:

This paper proposes a new theoretical approach to examine the way media companies (re)order people, objects and their relation in specific temporalities for economic purposes, called rhythmedia. Focusing on Facebook, I show how it enacts an artificial boundary between organic and paid ordering.

Paper long abstract:

This paper proposes a new theoretical approach to examine the way media companies (re)produce different temporalities and spatialities, in a practice I call - Rhythmedia. Rather than starting at the point of seeing or (in)visibility to examine ways of knowing in software mediated spaces, this paper argues that using rhythm is more productive when conducting research on datafied spaces. Influenced by Raymond Williams' (1974) planned flow concept and Henry Lefebvre's (2004) work on rhythm, 'rhythmedia' is the way media companies (re)order people, object and their relations in particular temporalities and spatialities for economic purposes. This is enacted on bodies that are trained by repetitions and spatial software organisation in order to produce particular subjects.

As a case study the paper focuses on Facebook's EdgeRank algorithm which orders different objects, people and their relations on a software mediated space the company calls 'newsfeed'. The research undertook several qualitative methods from November 2013 until November 2014, including autoethnography on Facebook newsfeed, archiving different 'terms of use' sections every two weeks, analysing Facebook's Newsroom 'news' section announcements, and conducting a method I developed and call 'platform reverse engineering'.

In particular, I show how Facebook (re)produces particular temporalities (such as speed and frequencies of actions) to draw an artificial line between 'organic' and 'paid' ordering of its newsfeed to make a profit from the service it offers for free to 'normal' users.

Panel C20
Software & organisation