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Name: Niall Docherty

PhD: Critical Theory and Cultural Studies

Thesis Title: Producing users online: Facebook as a digital apparatus


Thesis Description:

My PhD explores Facebook as a large-scale technological apparatus for the production of users, and provides an empirical examination of Facebook's technical infrastructures within the socio-political context of its inception and use.

Adopting an interdisciplinary approach, I will question the presentation of Facebook as a neutral 'tool' of human communication. Instead, Facebook will be presented as a highly engineered digital environment channelling user behavior along rigidly defined pathways of action. Whilst this channelling fulfils an explicit economic incentive, I will suggest that Facebook usage has further implications for the way users conceive of themselves and the world around them. 

I will conduct in-depth interviews with users, alongside a sustained empirical analysis of Facebook’s technical infrastructures, it’s algorithm’s, interfaces, and data gathering protocols for instance, to clarify what is precisely being asked of users on the platform itself. From this empirical basis, I will question the boundaries of possible autonomous human action on the platform. In doing so, the practical and theoretical exclusivity of human agency and machinery will be explored.


Supervisors and Institution:

Dr. Andrew Goffey

Dr. Jen Birks


Scholarly / Public Engagement Activities:


May: 'Facebook beyond the filter bubble: Problematizing the News Feed algorithm', University of Winchester Conference of Artificial and De-Personalised Decision-Making

June: 'Neoliberal subjectivity and Facebook', LSE Media and Politics Symposium

June: 'Manpowertop', Workshop with David Young at Furtherfield Gallery, London


Other Research Interests:

  • Cultural studies
  • Contemporary political theory
  • Continental philosophy
  • Governmentality
  • Software studies
  • Social media studies




University email address:


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