The Digital Production Gap in the Algorithmic Era

13 Oct, 2022

The Digital Production Gap in the Algorithmic Era

Our alum Jen Schradie published "The Digital Production Gap in the Algorithmic Era" as chapter 28 in Part V Social Inequalities in the Digital Landscape of The Oxford Handbook of Digital Media Sociology.

This book about sociology was published on 8 October 2020. The Oxford Handbook of Digital Media Sociology is a perfect point of entry for those curious about the state of sociological research on digital media. Each chapter reviews the sociological research that has been done thus far and points toward unanswered questions. The 33 chapters are arranged in six sections which look at digital media as they relate to theory, social institutions, everyday life, community and identity, social inequalities, and politics and power. The contributors to this volume provide a distinctly sociological center that will be an indispensable resource for scholars looking to find their way in the subfield, offering an overview of the research on digital media that is sure to illuminate this shifting terrain. Readers will find it accessible enough for use in class and thorough enough for seasoned professionals interested in a concise update in their areas of interest.

As for Jen Schradie's The Digital Production Gap in the Algorithmic Era in this book, she focuses more on economic sociology and social therapy. 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.

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