Algorithmic Desire and the Ideology of Twenty-First Century Capitalism
Much has been written about the more deleterious dimensions of social media websites, platforms, and apps, from Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, to Instagram and Snapchat, dating apps like Tinder, and more recent apps like TikTok. We are all more than familiar with critiques of social media corporate and government surveillance, the commodification, expropriation and exploitation of user-provided data, the tailoring and curation of content, and of course recent dilemmas focused on fake news tying our use of social media to international cyberwarfare. Given all of these potential problems, why don’t we just give up and abandon our attachment to social media? How might we grapple with the exploitative and anti-democratic aspects of social media set against the kinds of enjoyment that it procures?Despite some of these problems, Matthew Flisfeder argues that social media helps us to grasp the co-ordinates, not merely of our trouble with machines and new media, but with the larger totality of twenty-first century capitalism. Conceiving social media as a central metaphor for our historical present, Flisfeder proposes extending the concept to its fullest potentials. Instead of abandoning the concept, Flisfeder argues that the term social media helps us to render what is problematic about contemporary neoliberal capitalism, proposing that it is only by pursuing and failing to achieve a truly authentic social media as our goal that we are best positioned to understand the real contradictions of our time, as well as dominant forms of subjectivity, consciousness, and enjoyment.
Matthew Flisfeder is an Associate Professor of Rhetoric and Communications at The University of Winnipeg (Canada). He is the author of Algorithmic Desire: Toward a New Structuralist Theory of Social Media (Northwestern UP 2021), Postmodern Theory and Blade Runner (Bloomsbury 2017), The Symbolic, The Sublime, and Slavoj Žižek’s Theory of Film (Palgrave Macmillan 2012), and co-editor of Žižek and Media Studies: A Reader (Palgrave Macmillan 2014).