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Algorithms of Resistance: The Everyday Fight against Platform Power

By Tiziano Bonini and Emiliano Treré

How global workers, influencers, and activists develop tactics of algorithmic resistance by appropriating and repurposing the same algorithms that control our lives.

Algorithms are all around us, permeating more and more aspects of our daily lives. While accounts of platform power tend to come across as bleak and monolithic, Algorithms of Resistance shows how people can resist algorithms across a variety of domains. Drawing from rich ethnographic materials and perspectives from both the Global North and South, authors Tiziano Bonini and Emiliano Treré explore how people appropriate and reconfigure algorithms to pursue their objectives in three domains of everyday life: gig work, cultural industries, and politics. They reveal how forms of algorithmic agency and resistance are endemic and mundane and how the platform society is a contested battleground of contrasting forces. 

Bonini and Treré begin by outlining their key theoretical framework of moral economies. This framework argues that algorithms exist on a continuum. At its two extremes are two competing moral economies: the user moral economy and the platform moral economy. From here, Algorithms of Resistance chronicles the various inventive ways that individuals can work to achieve agency and resist the ubiquitous power of algorithms. Casting a wide net with a diverse range of case studies, Bonini and Treré reveal the moral imperative for all of us—from delivery drivers to artists to social movements—to resist algorithms.