The Friendship Assemblage

Concepts

Friendship, algorithms, programmed sociality, assemblage

Summary

Bucher beleives that friendship on social media platforms like Facebook at not actual friends, but are instead friendships between what she deems as “nonhuman software actors.” Through a software sensitive approach, Bucher shows us that online friendships are a mixture of both human and nonhuman elements, such as suggesting people to be our friends, instead of us choosing our friends organically.

Quotes

“Social networking sites are essentially designed and programmable spaces that encourage the user to carry out specific actions. This article addresses the sociotechnical ways in which social networking sites such as Facebook want friendships to be activated, and activated in specific ways.” (Bucher)

“Instead, what I want to argue is that friendship on Facebook clearly exists as a relation between multiple actors, not only human actors, but also nonhuman software actors. As already implied, users not only forge connections with “friends” via online platforms, the platforms themselves also contribute to the creation of these social connections. In this article I propose the concept of algorithmic friendship as a way of understanding the ways in which algorithms and software have become active participants in our networked lives and information ecosystems, forming the ways in which users are made to relate to self and others.” (Bucher)

Commentary

In many ways, social media platforms have made us closer. They allow us to communicate with our friends and families over vast distances, and they also put is in contact with people we may never have known in the real world. However, these platforms have sullied the organic nature of friendships. On sites like Facebook, our friends are suggested to us, rather than us choosing to communicate with the individuals. Friendships and be suggested through a series of algorithms, removing the inefficient, organic nature from friendships. We are beginning to grow a liking for the programmed method in which our friendships are made. Instead of going out and about and meeting people that share similar interests with us, we now have our friends chosen by algorithms and presented to us, which is much more convenient and efficient than going out and meeting others that may share similar interests with you..

To aid with the friend suggesting algorithm, people signing onto sites such as Facebook are required to create a profile of themselves, allowing them to be sorted and categorized when they create their accounts, proving that people can be stereotyped, and suggesting that they be put into contact with others that fit within their stereotype. So long are the days of everyone being told that they are unique snowflakes, as the cold logic of these platforms proves that people can be categorized, based on their hobbies, likes, friends, and families. Everyone fits within some group, proving that we aren’t as unique as we were taught in grade school.

Question

Is it not worrying that human friendships can be derived from mathematical algorithms? be it through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, even dating sites, isn’t it frightening that the processes which were once considered organic can now be mechanized?