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Networked intimacy: Algorithmic friendship and scalable sociality

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Deborah ChambersORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC 4.0).


This article asks whether a crisis of intimacy exists in the digital era to provoke an enquiry into theextent to which social media are transforming or transformed by personal relationships. I addressthe nature of late modern intimacy through the lens of ‘friendship’ and consider why Facebookembraces this affiliation. I then ask whether contemporary forms of public intimacy pre-date orare configured by social media. Software-centred approaches including algorithmically engineeredfriendship are considered to cast light on public intimacy, privacy and trust. The implications ofcross-cultural ethnographic research by Miller et al. are then considered to highlight user agency.Messaging apps such as WhatsApp have the potential to liberate certain users by controlling groupsize and degree of privacy, as ‘scalable sociality’ in a polymedia environment. I conclude by arguingfor a synthesis of political economic perspectives and cross-cultural studies to emphasise useragency in future research.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Chambers D

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: European Journal of Communication

Year: 2017

Volume: 32

Issue: 1

Pages: 1-11

Print publication date: 24/02/2017

Online publication date: 20/12/2016

Acceptance date: 01/12/2016

Date deposited: 08/02/2017

ISSN (print): 0267-3231

ISSN (electronic): 1460-3705

Publisher: Sage Publications


DOI: 10.1177/0267323116682792


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