Jen Schradie on the Digital Production Gap in the Algorithmic Era

01 Aug, 2021

Jen Schradie on the Digital Production Gap in the Algorithmic Era

Jen Schradie co-authored an article with Liam Bekirsky on digital inequlities and content production, which was recently published in the Oxford Handbook of Sociology and Digital Media. The article delves into the implications digital inequlities, such as racism and class divides, have on digital content production. The paper also tackles how algorithmic bias continues to exacerbate pre-existing socioeconomic inequalities. Questions around the implcations digital divides have on democracy are also at stake in the article. Jen Schradie obtained her PhD from UC Berkeley's Department of Sociology, with a Designated Emphasis in New Media, and she is now an Assistant Professor at Sciences Po in Paris. Her research focuses on digital media, digital activism, socioeconmic divides, government, and democracy.

From the journal article:

As the volume of digital content continues to grow exponentially, whose voices dominate online becomes more salient. Democracy is at stake in the competition for an audience in the online commons. Digital technology was supposed to overcome the media dominance of the elite with a broader array of voices, but social class is one of the most reliable predictors of digital content production, interacting with both racialized and gendered inequalities. Yet analyzing this form of digital inequality requires a theoretical framework of who controls the digital means of production, not simply a linear model of bridging the gap with more access or skills. This chapter examines digital power relations by tracing the history of online content production inequalities over time, showing how the increasing grip by the ruling class, corporations, and governments – in the wake of algorithms and artificial intelligence – makes it increasingly difficult for everyday people to be heard online. While most marginalized communities never got a fair shot because of constraints over resources in the early and more open web, in the algorithmic era this is even more of an uphill battle. The grip that platforms and their owners have over content creation—and especially distribution—makes it vital to theorize this broader concept of the digital means of production.

Read the full article here!