To recap: The full range of our identity markers can be algorithmically reconstituted depending on our context; our imputed identity, even in terms of any of the familiar and seemingly fixed categories (gender, class, race, religious affiliation, etc.), can change from site to site, depending on the data set they draw from.
Our data is reprocessed from moment to moment, positing a different self for us to inhabit and imposing a different set of prejudices on us. Trying to wrest control of these from within the system only refines the data by which the process is implemented. As Cheney-Lippold argues, “We are effectively losing control in defining who we are online, or more specifically we are losing ownership over the meaning of the categories that constitute our identities.” But we never had ownership of these social facts in the first place.
The more we insist we know ourselves independent of the social contexts in which we operate, the more algorithms can manipulate us, promising us a set of tools to reshape how we are seen into what we think people should see. Recasting the self as data offers the illusion of control over that data, but also endorses the way algorithms parse it — something more opaque than even how other people interpret and categorize us.
An alternative is to embrace the way identities are algorithmically imposed on is, consume our “selves” as perpetually novel, ultra-personalized consumer goods. One can accept the ready pleasure of consumerism rather than pursue the freedom of autonomy, which is always imperfect and requires boundless innovation in our techniques of resistance.