Document Type

Article

Publication Date

2021

Abstract

As algorithmic media amplify longstanding social oppression, they also seek to colonize every last bit of sociality where that oppression could be resisted. Swipe apps constitute prototypical examples of this dynamic. By employing protocols that foster absent-minded engagement, they allow unconscious racial preferences to be expressed without troubling users’ perceptions of themselves as non-racist. These preferences are then measured by recommender systems that treat “attractiveness” as a zero-sum game, allocate affective flows according to the winners and losers of those games, and ultimately amplify the salience of race as a factor of success for finding intimacy. In thus priming users to disassociate their behaviours from troubling networked effects, swipe apps recursively couple their unconscious biases with biased outcomes in a pernicious feedback loop. To resist this ideological severing of the personal from the networked, this paper analyses interviews from fifty online daters through a lens formulated as the “uncanny user unconscious.” This lens allows for the affective registration of abhorrent modes of distributed thoughts disavowed by the very users they are created from and coupled with. It may thus afford those seeking more ethical protocols of engagement some purchase on the all too familiar biases some algorithms both amplify and repress.

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