Data Feminism meets Platformisation: A critical study of power and discrimination in YouTube and TikTok
This PhD project investigates the efforts of minoritised groups to gain visibility on video-hosting social media platforms and the ways that this visibility makes them precarious. Gender, sexual and ethnic minorities enter this double bind of exposure and vulnerability to interrupt patterns of oppression and use technological and algorithmic savvy to the purpose of self-representation. However, impactful self-representation within social media environments hinges on the equal distribution of power, which itself, relies on the efficiency of social media platforms to detect and suppress racism, sexism and other forms of discrimination. The analysis re-evaluates the distribution of power under the framework of D’Ignanzio and Klein (2020) who define power as the “current configuration of structural privilege and structural oppression” (24) that offers unearned benefits to some groups while disadvantaging others. This project draws from research within critical platform studies, governance, and creator studies to trace the concentration of power in online networked environments. Simultaneously, this project sheds light on the techniques that creators develop in order to build and share knowledge collectively, through algorithmic gossip (Bishop 2018), and to protest against discriminatory algorithmic policies. These techniques represent a form of subjugated knowledge - knowledge that is not acknowledged by mainstream institutions. The aim of this project is to uplift the voices of minorities within digital platforms for the purpose of co-liberation, and the creation of lasting social impact by intervening on current oppressive systems of power. This project uses a mixed methodology of digital ethnography, digital methods, and artistic experimentation with data visualisation to not only unpack bodies of data but to question the ethical implications of sensitive data derived from social media platforms.
Aikaterini holds a B.A. in Liberal Arts and Sciences from Leiden University College and a Research Master’s degree (RMa) in New Media and Digital Cultures from the University of Amsterdam. Her thesis project, “You can Take the Public out of the Platform but you cannot Take the Platform out of the Public: A Proposal for platform-sensitive empirical research into YouTube publics and their contingencies” explores the sociotechnical entanglements of political and artistic YouTube subcultures. Following her studies, she received a short-term PhD scholarship from the University of Siegen in Germany, where she continued to research YouTube as a socio-technical infrastructure, and how it is assembled and reassembled at the interface of participatory culture, machine learning algorithms, and Google’s marketing and brand strategy. At the University of Siegen, Aikaterini has earned a position as a research fellow under the supervision of Professor Dr. Carolin Gerlitz. She teaches within the EnableUS interdisciplinary centre and co-organized the summer school: “More than Data: Positionality and Situatedness in Digital Media Research” with Dr. Elena Pilipets and Dr. Julia Bee. She is currently a PhD candidate at LSE on an Onassis Foundation scholarship.
Dr Alison Powell and Dr Jean-Christophe Plantin.