How to Do Things with Information Online. A Conceptual Framework for Evaluating Social Networking Platforms as Epistemic Environments

Philsophy and Technology 35 (77) (2022)
  Copy   BIBTEX


This paper proposes a conceptual framework for evaluating how social networking platforms fare as epistemic environments for human users. I begin by proposing a situated concept of epistemic agency as fundamental for evaluating epistemic environments. Next, I show that algorithmic personalisation of information makes social networking platforms problematic for users’ epistemic agency because these platforms do not allow users to adapt their behaviour sufficiently. Using the tracing principle inspired by the ethics of self-driving cars, I operationalise it here and identify three requirements that automated epistemic environments need to fulfil: (a) the users need to be afforded a range of skilled actions; (b) users need to be sensitive to the possibility to use their skills; (c) the habits built when adapting to the platform should not undermine the user’s pre-existing skills. I then argue that these requirements are almost impossible to fulfil all at the same time on current SN platforms; yet nevertheless, we need to pay attention to these whenever we evaluate an epistemic environment with automatic features. Finally, as an illustration, I show how Twitter, a popular social networking platform, will fare regarding these requirements.

Author's Profile

Lavinia Marin
Delft University of Technology


Added to PP

141 (#62,272)

6 months
53 (#38,133)

Historical graph of downloads since first upload
This graph includes both downloads from PhilArchive and clicks on external links on PhilPapers.
How can I increase my downloads?