There are multiple definitions of what bots are and do. In simple terms, they are automated algorithms that often operate as an interface between infrastructure and human users. There is a wide spectrum of types of bots: social bots, scraping bots, high-frequency trading bots, spam bots, managerial bots, chatbots and many other types.
Why bots as infrapunctures?
I started this research because it seemed to fit my interest in what Stuart Geiger calls “bespoke code”, where ‘bespoke’ indicates that the code is highly customized and specifically written to fit some already existing entity. Code that piggybacks on a stable structure. In a time of software-as-a-service, where many programs do not run on one's computer anymore, but rather from on a server somewhere far away, bespoke code is on the rise. And bots, especially, are a good example of this. They do not need to be hosted by the same server on which the platform is running, they don't require a lot of resources, and they don't necessarily imply very good programming skills. They are most commonly written to satisfy a highly specific need that is not covered by the main functions of the server-side code.
Not to mention, that bots are often written by users that are new to programming. They are a way to make acquaintance.
Writing a bot implies understanding the technical and social guidelines that many online communities operate under. Bots are first and foremost technical systems, but they are derived from social values and exert power into social systems. For these reasons, bots have political potential.