Negotiating sociomateriality and commensurability: Human and algorithmic editorial judgment at social media platforms


Platforms are fulfilling functions previously considered within the jurisdictions of media outlets, such as news distribution, advertising, or editorial judgment. This article proposes strengthening the vocabulary of scholarship on news organizations and platforms by taking material agency seriously. It animates sociomateriality as a suitable conceptual framework to dissect human and nonhuman agency in editorial judgment and presents future research with ontological paths for considering their relationship. When platforms are accused of bias or partisanship, this pinpoints the importance of perceptions of who is in charge of editorial judgment. This article suggests that by utilizing a sociomateriality framework to disentangle the interplay of the human and the algorithmic, editorial judgment surfaces as a seminal similarity between media and platforms. The ancillary concept of commensurability serves as an analytical heuristic to render such comparisons possible. This is illustrated by two exemplifications of the sociomateriality framework: The cases of Facebook Trending Topics, and of Twitter Moments.