The algorithmic subject: the neo-liberal apparatus and the social media technology of power.

Author: Hacon, Christopher Laurence

Date: 2017

Publisher: University of Otago

Type: Thesis

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University of Otago


This thesis is a Foucauldian inspired apparatus investigation that contributes to our understanding of neo-liberalism. The thesis will show that neo-liberalism has varied and, at times, contradictory relationships with social media platforms. The investigation is predominantly conducted through an interrogation of the academic literature and deals with the problem of how to grasp the neo-liberal present. I focus upon Foucault’s important account of subjectivity, and consider, firstly, how this account might work in relation to neoliberalism’s dominant mechanisms, and, secondly, how this subjectivity works in the context of theorisations of social media platforms. The introduction lays out this terrain and the matrix through which I approach the objects of my investigation. Part 1 of this thesis engages with the various proponents and critics of neo-liberalism and the contribution that Foucault’s The Birth of Biopolitics lectures have made. The second part moves to identify and articulate six dominant mechanisms of the neo-liberal apparatus. These include: freedom, individualism, competition, financialization, adaptation, and accumulation. I also present a genealogy of the social media technology of power and argue that these objects are engaged in producing the neo-liberal and algorithmic subject respectively. Finally, Part 3 of the thesis explores the relationships between these objects and argues that it is too simplistic to present the dominant social media platforms as merely a product of a neo-liberal apparatus. Although neo-liberalism and social media are in a state of synergy, they are also, and more importantly, in tension with one another. The thesis thus makes the following contributions to critical work in communication, media and politics: my mapping of six dominant mechanisms which make the neo-liberal apparatus work; the articulation of the subjectivity produced by this broad machinic apparatus in relation to social media technology of power; my identification of the tensions and synergies between the neo-liberal apparatus and social media technology of power.

Subjects: Neo-liberalism, social-media, apparatus, foucault, mechanism, power, subjectivity, algorithm

Citation: ["Hacon, C. L. (2017). The algorithmic subject: the neo-liberal apparatus and the social media technology of power. (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy). University of Otago. Retrieved from"]

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