Critical simulation as hybrid digital method for exploring the data operations and vernacular cultures of visual social media platforms

Jean Burgess, Dan Angus, Nicholas Carah, Mark Andrejevic, Kish Hawker, Kelly Lewis, Abdul Obeid, Jane Tan, Robbie Fordyce, Verity Trott, Luzhou Li

Research output: Working paperWorking PaperOther


In this paper we outline and demonstrate the critical simulation approach to understanding the data operations of visual social media platforms. We situate this approach within the field of platform studies and position it as a ‘hybrid digital method’, before describing its application for descriptive, forensic and speculative purposes in two current research projects: one that uses machine vision combined with mixed-methods qualitative research to explore Instagram’s algorithmic visual culture; and one that combines automated data donation and machine vision to explore Facebook’s ad targeting practices.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2021

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