Defining Algorithmic Ideology: Using Ideology Critique to Scrutinize Corporate Search Engines

  • Astrid Mager Institute of Technology Assessment, Austrian Academy of Sciences
Keywords: Search Engine, Algorithm, Critical Theory, Ideology, Capitalism, Business Model, Privacy, Net Politics, Post-Democracy


This article conceptualizes “algorithmic ideology” as a valuable tool to understand and critique corporate search engines in the context of wider socio-political developments. Drawing on critical theory it shows how capitalist value-systems manifest in search technology, how they spread through algorithmic logics and how they are stabilized in society. Following philosophers like Althusser, Marx and Gramsci it elaborates how content providers and users contribute to Google’s capital accumulation cycle and exploitation schemes that come along with it. In line with contemporary mass media and neoliberal politics they appear to be fostering capitalism and its “commodity fetishism” (Marx). It further reveals that the capitalist hegemony has to be constantly negotiated and renewed. This dynamic notion of ideology opens up the view for moments of struggle and counter-actions. “Organic intellectuals” (Gramsci) can play a central role in challenging powerful actors like Google and their algorithmic ideology. To pave the way towards more democratic information technology, however, requires more than single organic intellectuals. Additional obstacles need to be conquered, as I finally discuss.

Author Biography

Astrid Mager, Institute of Technology Assessment, Austrian Academy of Sciences
Postdoctoral researcher at the Institute of Technology Assessement (ITA), Austrian Academy of Sciences, and lecturer at the Department of Social Studies of Science, University of Vienna