#RIPINSTAGRAM: Examining user’s counter-narratives opposing the introduction of algorithmic personalization on Instagram

  • Martina Mahnke Skrubbeltrang IT University of Copenhagen
  • Josefine Grunnet
  • Nicolai Traasdahl Tarp
Keywords: algorithms, personalization, Instagram, counter-narratives, user resistance

Abstract

When Instagram announced the implementation of algorithmic personalization on their platform a heated debate arose. Several users expressed instantly their strong discontent under the hashtag #RIPINSTAGRAM. In this paper, we examine how users commented on the announcement of Instagram implementing algorithmic personalization. Drawing on the conceptual starting point of framing user comments as “counter-narratives” (Andrews, 2004), which oppose Instagram’s organizational narrative of improving the user experience, the study explores the main concerns users bring forth in greater detail. The two-step analysis draws on altogether 8,645 comments collected from Twitter and Instagram. The collected Twitter data were used to develop preliminary inductive categories describing users’ counter-narratives. Thereafter, we coded all Instagram data extracted from Instagram systematically in order to enhance, adjust and revise the preliminary categories. This inductive coding approach (Mayring, 2000) combined with an in-depth qualitative analysis resulted in the identification of the following four counter-narratives brought forth by users: 1) algorithmic hegemony; 2) violation of user autonomy; 3) prevalence of commercial interests; and 4) deification of mainstream. All of these counter-narratives are related to ongoing public debates regarding the social implications of algorithmic personalization. In conclusion, the paper suggests that the identified counter-narratives tell a story of resistance. While technological advancement is generally welcomed and celebrated, the findings of this study point towards a growing user resistance to algorithmic personalization.

Author Biographies

Martina Mahnke Skrubbeltrang, IT University of Copenhagen
Course manager at the digital design department at the IT University of Copenhagen. In her PhD studies she developed a communication perspective on information relevance in algorithmic media. Currently, she is working with creative methods and the framework of design thinking, aiming at combining creative design methods with communication and media research. E-mail: mamah [at] itu [dot] dk
Josefine Grunnet

MSc in Information Technology at the IT University of Copenhagen, specializing in Digital Democratic Citizenship. As a graduate student she carried out several studies focusing on digital literacy, information management and the social challenges of digitalization.

Nicolai Traasdahl Tarp

MSc in Information Technology at the IT University of Copenhagen, specializing in Digital Democratic Citizenship. Throughout his studies Nicolai has been interested in the interplay between technology and users, and particularly how marginalized groups engage with technology in order to produce a counter discourse.

Published
2017-04-03
How to Cite
Mahnke Skrubbeltrang, M., Grunnet, J., & Tarp, N. T. (2017). #RIPINSTAGRAM: Examining user’s counter-narratives opposing the introduction of algorithmic personalization on Instagram. First Monday, 22(4). https://doi.org/10.5210/fm.v22i4.7574