Special Issue of CLCWeb: Comparative Literature and Culture
What Does the Algorithm Want? Psychoanalysis and the Critique of Digital Platforms
This special issue of CLCWeb asks: “What does the algorithm want?” Contributions are invited from scholars working in the area of psychoanalysis and digital/online media.
What does psychoanalytic criticism offer us as a practice for critically interrogating digital and online media?
Who among us does not already know about the critique of digital platforms? We hear all the time about big tech, big data, platform capitalism, communicative capitalism, surveillance capitalism, control society, and so forth. The Edward Snowden leaks about the PRISM program in 2013 provided evidence for what we all already secretly believed: that our online interactions and communications are all the time being monitored and collected by mega corporations and the government. The Cambridge Analytica scandal, revealed by whistle blower, Christopher Wylie, in 2018 taught us even more about the ways platforms manipulate users’ views of the world and the ways this impacts our actions and behaviours, our ethics and our politics.
Now, during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, it seems to be the case, increasingly, that possibilities for escaping our attachments to digital platforms are shrinking, all the while, tech billionaires, like Jeff Bezos and Mark Zuckerberg are getting richer and richer, while our addictions to social technologies may be making us increasingly anxious.
Some choose to retreat from more public presentations of self and selfhood into the safe position of mere “lurking.” Others more self-consciously manage their online reputations, a component of identity construction in the neoliberal age of human capital and the entrepreneur-of-the-self. Still others may be dragged into the muddy waters of the online culture wars because, after all, there’s always someone who is wrong on the internet, as one popular cartoon once suggested.
But, perhaps, the strangest aspect to all of this is the fact that many of us already know very well the ways that platforms operate, what they do, and whose interests they serve; but nevertheless, we continue to act as if this were not the case. While some of this may be explained by, or attributed to the ubiquity of platforms in our everyday lives, materially, it is still worth asking how platforms relate to the subjectivizations of culture and our society ideologically. How do platforms and algorithms play with and feed off of our enjoyment and our desires, our fantasies, and our drives?
Contributions are invited that apply psychoanalytic criticism to the analysis of online and digital platforms, not limited to social media apps and websites, such as Facebook, Twitter, or TikTok. Contributors may also choose to write about retail platforms, like Amazon; Internet of Things apps, like Uber or Skip the Dishes; or other comparable platforms and apps. Contributors may also consider writing about the back end of platforms, focusing on programming and algorithm design; or even attempt to connect the front end of the interface with the business and political economic dimensions of the social technologies and platforms industries, including a focus on international political rivalries and forms of cyberwarfare. Yet another possibility would be for contributors to assess the possibilities for interpellating users towards radical identities on both the Left and the Right, the role of memes in the culture war, and how platforms activate political actions.
We invite original contributions in response to this theme with abstracts of 250 words, a 100 word bio note, and 5 keywords due by March 15th, 2021.
Authors with selected abstracts will be notified by April 15th, 2021, and invited to submit full manuscripts of approximately 5000-6000 words, critical reviews of 3000 words, or book reviews of 1000 words, for consideration for inclusion in the special issue due by November 1st, 2021, with an expected publication date around September 2022.
For more information, inquires, or to submit an abstract for review, please contact special issue editor, Matthew Flisfeder, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Use the subject heading, “CLC Platform Psychoanalysis.”