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YouTube and the protocological control of platform organisations

YouTube and the protocological control of platform organisations This paper aims to examine the recommendation system of the video-sharing website YouTube to study how control of users is effected on online platforms.Design/methodology/approachThis paper conceptualises algorithmic systems as protocols – technological and social infrastructures that both facilitate and govern interactions between autonomous actors (Galloway and Thacker, 2004, 2007). It adopts a netnographic approach (Kozinets, 2002) to study not only the formal, technological systems of the platform but also the systems as they were made sense of, understood and enacted upon by actors. It relies both on information as revealed by the organisation itself, as well as discussions between lay users in online forums and press coverage.FindingsThe results of this study indicate that the ways in which platforms selectively facilitate interactions between users constitute a form of control. While maintaining the appearance of an open and neutral marketplace, interactions on the platform are in fact highly structured. The system relies on the surveillance of user interactions to rapidly identify and propagate marketable contents, so as to maximise user “engagement” and ad revenue. The systems place few demands or restrictions on individual users, instead control is effected in a probabilistic fashion, over the population of users as a whole, so as to, in aggregate, accomplish organisational goal.Originality/valueThis paper contributes to the literature on accounting and control practices in online spaces, by extending the notion of control beyond overt rankings and evaluations, to the underlying technical and social infrastructures that facilitate and shape interactions. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Qualitative Research in Accounting & Management Emerald Publishing

YouTube and the protocological control of platform organisations

Qualitative Research in Accounting & Management , Volume 19 (3): 25 – Jun 6, 2022

YouTube and the protocological control of platform organisations

Qualitative Research in Accounting & Management , Volume 19 (3): 25 – Jun 6, 2022

Abstract

This paper aims to examine the recommendation system of the video-sharing website YouTube to study how control of users is effected on online platforms.Design/methodology/approachThis paper conceptualises algorithmic systems as protocols – technological and social infrastructures that both facilitate and govern interactions between autonomous actors (Galloway and Thacker, 2004, 2007). It adopts a netnographic approach (Kozinets, 2002) to study not only the formal, technological systems of the platform but also the systems as they were made sense of, understood and enacted upon by actors. It relies both on information as revealed by the organisation itself, as well as discussions between lay users in online forums and press coverage.FindingsThe results of this study indicate that the ways in which platforms selectively facilitate interactions between users constitute a form of control. While maintaining the appearance of an open and neutral marketplace, interactions on the platform are in fact highly structured. The system relies on the surveillance of user interactions to rapidly identify and propagate marketable contents, so as to maximise user “engagement” and ad revenue. The systems place few demands or restrictions on individual users, instead control is effected in a probabilistic fashion, over the population of users as a whole, so as to, in aggregate, accomplish organisational goal.Originality/valueThis paper contributes to the literature on accounting and control practices in online spaces, by extending the notion of control beyond overt rankings and evaluations, to the underlying technical and social infrastructures that facilitate and shape interactions.

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References (52)

Publisher
Emerald Publishing
Copyright
© Yu Xiang.
ISSN
1176-6093
eISSN
1176-6093
DOI
10.1108/qram-04-2021-0060
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

This paper aims to examine the recommendation system of the video-sharing website YouTube to study how control of users is effected on online platforms.Design/methodology/approachThis paper conceptualises algorithmic systems as protocols – technological and social infrastructures that both facilitate and govern interactions between autonomous actors (Galloway and Thacker, 2004, 2007). It adopts a netnographic approach (Kozinets, 2002) to study not only the formal, technological systems of the platform but also the systems as they were made sense of, understood and enacted upon by actors. It relies both on information as revealed by the organisation itself, as well as discussions between lay users in online forums and press coverage.FindingsThe results of this study indicate that the ways in which platforms selectively facilitate interactions between users constitute a form of control. While maintaining the appearance of an open and neutral marketplace, interactions on the platform are in fact highly structured. The system relies on the surveillance of user interactions to rapidly identify and propagate marketable contents, so as to maximise user “engagement” and ad revenue. The systems place few demands or restrictions on individual users, instead control is effected in a probabilistic fashion, over the population of users as a whole, so as to, in aggregate, accomplish organisational goal.Originality/valueThis paper contributes to the literature on accounting and control practices in online spaces, by extending the notion of control beyond overt rankings and evaluations, to the underlying technical and social infrastructures that facilitate and shape interactions.

Journal

Qualitative Research in Accounting & ManagementEmerald Publishing

Published: Jun 6, 2022

Keywords: Algorithms; Neoliberalism; Platforms; Biopolitics

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