Theorizing “Stories About Algorithms” as a Mechanism in the Formation and Maintenance of Algorithmic Imaginaries

Schellewald, Andreas. 2022. Theorizing “Stories About Algorithms” as a Mechanism in the Formation and Maintenance of Algorithmic Imaginaries. Social Media + Society, 8(1), ISSN 2056-3051 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

In this article, I report from an ethnographic investigation into young adult users of the popular short-video app TikTok. More specifically, I discuss their experience of TikTok’s algorithmic content feed, or so-called “For You Page.” Like many other personalized online environments today, the For You Page is marked by the tension of being a mechanism of digital surveillance and affective control, yet also a source of entertainment and pleasure. Focusing on people’s sense-making practices, especially in relation to stories about the TikTok algorithm, the article approaches the discursive repertoire that underpins people’s negotiation of this tension. Doing so, I theorize the role and relevance of “stories about algorithms” within the context of algorithmic imaginaries as activating users in sense-making processes about their algorithmic entanglements.

Item Type:


Identification Number (DOI):


TikTok, algorithms, algorithmic imaginaries, ethnography, digital culture

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Media, Communications and Cultural Studies


20 December 2021Accepted
15 February 2022Published Online
January 2022Published

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

16 Feb 2022 11:38

Last Modified:

16 Feb 2022 11:38

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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