This article proposes an affirmative theoretical framework for teaching students about social media, algorithms, and critical data studies and offers a concrete example of an assignment that can be used to help students better understand how social media sites impact our processes of subjectivation, or how we are created as subjects. This pedagogical approach is situated within larger conversations about how to best approach media literacy, digital literacy, and other emerging 21st century literacies. Drawing upon a pedagogical action research methodology, this article analyzes student projects and reflections to determine how one can actively participate in one’s own processes of subjectivation as they relate to social media, as well as what factors facilitate or limit this ability. I argue that a deeper understanding of how platforms and algorithms function increases one’s ability to intervene in their own processes of subjectivation. Further, I analyze student projects to demonstrate how the assignment helped students better conceptualize the ways that their data were being captured and then used by Facebook. This analysis showed that the inherent for-profit nature of the Facebook platform limits the possibility of intervention ability by design. These results suggest that new approaches to social media platforms, such as those that are non-profit or for the public good, might open further opportunities for more creative interventions. These experimentations at both the level of the user and the platform align well with an affirmative critical theory approach of experimentation and counter-actualization.
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