Algorithmic violence in everyday life and the role of media anthropology

Barassi, V. (2022). Algorithmic violence in everyday life and the role of media anthropology. In E. Costa, P. G. Lange, N. Haynes, & J. Sinanan, The Routledge Companion to Media Anthropology (1st ed., pp. 481–491). Routledge.


Open access: No

Notes: In this book chapter, Barassi discusses the concept of algorithmic violence by drawing from anthropology. More specifically, she discusses algorithmic profiling, noting that “in everyday life makes people feel belittled and objectified, and is often experienced as a form of violence” (p. 482). Indeed, she notes that a critical issue with algorithmic culture (as with social media platforms) is human reductionism, where human nature is reduced to specific categorizable data points. Such exercise of violence is depleted on top of existing structures of power, thus harming vulnerable people with more frequency and impact. In this sense, Barassi connects the study of algorithmic violence with the anthropological tradition of studying bureaucracy and rituals, noting that “Algorithmic profiling, like any form of bureaucracy, is defined by forms of symbolic violence, because it pigeon-holes, stereotypes, and detaches people from their sense of humanity” (p. 489). Moreover, she notes that algorithmic harms are not only about symbolic violence—but also about the threat of physical violence, “embodied in the many security guards, cameras, technologies, and enforcers entering different areas of social lives from schools to parks and public spaces, who are there to remind us that we have to stick to the rules or have the right papers” (p. 489).

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