Automation, Algorithms, and Politics| Political Communication, Computational Propaganda, and Autonomous Agents — Introduction

Samuel C. Woolley, Philip N. Howard


The Internet certainly disrupted our understanding of what communication can be, who does it, how, and to what effect. What constitutes the Internet has always been an evolving suite of technologies and a dynamic set of social norms, rules, and patterns of use. But the shape and character of digital communications are shifting again—the browser is no longer the primary means by which most people encounter information infrastructure. The bulk of digital communications are no longer between people but between devices, about people, over the Internet of things. Political actors make use of technological proxies in the form of proprietary algorithms and semiautomated social actors—political bots—in subtle attempts to manipulate public opinion. These tools are scaffolding for human control, but the way they work to afford such control over interaction and organization can be unpredictable, even to those who build them. So to understand contemporary political communication—and modern communication broadly—we must now investigate the politics of algorithms and automation.


political communication, science and technology studies, research trends, bots, algorithms, automation, social media, Internet of thingsy studies; research trends; bots; artificial intelligence; algorithms; automation; social media; Internet of things

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