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Contextualizing interpretative agency within the sociotechnical relations of data-driven media infrastructures

Pavlíčková, Tereza and De Ridder, Sander (2022) Contextualizing interpretative agency within the sociotechnical relations of data-driven media infrastructures. In: ECREA 2022 9th European Communication Conference, 19-22 October 2022, Aarhus, Denmark.

Type of Research: Conference, Symposium or Workshop Item
Creators: Pavlíčková, Tereza and De Ridder, Sander

There is much discussion in media and communication studies on the ever-growing power of digital media. Platforms are disrupting long-standing social institutions and markets (Van Dijck, et al. 2018), and people are increasingly dependent on data-driven infrastructures that mediate daily life (IPSP 2018) as well as perceiving and understanding their selves (Lupton 2016). Conceptualizing digital media as an infrastructure means that digital media must be seen as an existential mode for being a social subject (Peters 2015). This, we argue, is a gestalt shift in the conceptual imagination of the dominance of media power – cloud infrastructures have, for example, been described as a ‘colonization’ of life (Couldry and Mejias 2019). The ambiguity of media and datafication in particular urges us to ask questions of audiences’ agency and resistance, not only in terms of how people understand their datafied selves and their mediated lives, but also in terms of scale and potential power imbalances. Does the notion of users’ resistance and agency matter, considering that data-driven technologies offer so little opportunities for agency? Starting from how communicative agency is understood in audience studies, defined as the “capabilities to effect power potentials through interpretative engagements in everyday processes of communication, in relation to structures that take part in the same communicative processes” (Ytre-Arne & Das, 2020: 7), we ask how we can conceptually imagine and inquire into people’s agency to resist data-driven media infrastructures – large scale sociotechnical systems prominent in people’s everyday lives. This presentation engages with this question by exploring it theoretically and conceptually, drawing on several examples of studies of data-driven media and agency. We seek to ask critical questions that we believe are crucial for audience studies such as: does the concept of communicative agency enable us to empirically address the scale of digital media growth and the ways these media are intertwined with our everyday lives? Much of the current research focuses on small scale investments and intentions, giving disproportionate attention to people’s individual capacities to meaningfully negotiate techno logical affordances. We conclude with some points that might be interesting for the immediate future of audience studies. First, we believe that we must learn to see the mutual dependencies between people and digital media infrastructures and discern people’s continuous movement in and out of these dependencies, expressed often through seemingly mundane small acts of engagement (Picone et al., 2019) with data-driven media. Second, we emphasize that communicative agency within the sociotechnical relations of data-driven infrastructures is often less strategic and self-interested, but affective.

Official Website: https://conferences.au.dk/ecrea2022
Your affiliations with UAL: Colleges > London College of Communication
Date: 21 October 2022
Event Location: Aarhus, Denmark
Date Deposited: 08 Nov 2023 13:51
Last Modified: 10 Nov 2023 11:55
Item ID: 20771
URI: https://ualresearchonline.arts.ac.uk/id/eprint/20771

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