Mahnke Skrubbeltrang,  Grunnet, & Traasdahl Tarp: #RIPINSTAGRAM: Examining user’s counter-narratives opposing the introduction of algorithmic personalization on Instagram

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.

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