Social Media Platforms are Failed Cities

Eleni Spiliotes
Tuesday 3 January 2023

Ourednik, André, Mlynář, Jakub, Mutzner, Nico, and Hamed Alavi. Interactions 28, no. 6 (2021): 62–66.

Through a comparison of the internet to the typology of the city, this article argues that social media mimics the problematic urban condition of sprawl. This criticism is twofold: one, that like urban sprawl, social media prevents exposure to otherness; and two, that digital communication is void of embodied experience. By only exposing users to like-minded people, the classification algorithm is able to consolidate consumer groups for targeted advertisement. Since users do not come in contact with embodied humans in these contrived interactions, the universal human experience, which helps people understand, identify, and empathize with others during face-to-face encounters, is fragmented. The lack of otherness and embodiment in the digital landscape has political implications. The classification algorithm operates as a mechanism of polarization, and the lack of embodied discourse fosters violence that transcends the digital realm. The authors believe the issue lies in the private ownership of these platforms, and thus propose a collaborative algorithm that would resemble participatory urban planning, and provide a mode of digital peacebuilding and peacekeeping.


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