Social media, digital labour and the creation of profit

During the course of one week, document and then reflect upon the ‘labour’ that you have performed as a consequence of your everyday social media usage, and on the mechanisms that may be used to extract profit from this labour.

Throughout the course of one week I have been noting and reflecting upon the type of ‘labour’ I perform online and have been shocked by the amount of mechanism used to extract profit from said labour.

Karl Marx’s idea of labour being a purposeful activity aimed at the creation of use value, for him the worker is alienated from the ownership of the production means and ultimately the product of labour itself. It has become apparent to me that a lot of my online activities especially on social media have had a huge reliance on immaterial products of value rather than anything else.

Gift giving at Christmas time has become an integral part of the festivities and I took to online shopping to fulfill my friends and family expectation of this social convention. After spending hours browsing on Libertylondon.com and Netaporter.com in hope to find the perfect commodities to surprise my loved ones, I had notices ads on my Facebook feed linking me to T-shirts and plates I had just decided to not purchase. Fuchs explains the notion of targeted advertising as, “Targeted online advertising is a method of relative surplus-value production in advertising […] they show different advertisements to different user groups depending on the monitoring, assessment, and comparison of the users’ interests and online behavior.” (Fuchs, 2015:109)

This happened because upon registration for Facebook I was obliged to agree to complex terms and conditions, which allows for Facebook to sell my private information to advertisers and generate algorithms based on my online activity to advertise to me.

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Similar things continued to happen when I watched Youtube video’s or browsed on Instagram, under the tag ‘recommended for you’, I kept seeing familiar items. In accordance with the neoliberalist theory of individualism and my striving for higher cultural capital should urge me to remain on these websites browsing through everything they recommend. Many theorists have described my time online, as any other users, as digital labour, Fuchs emphasizes that it, “is not simple consumption or leisure time, but productive time that generates economic value.” (Fuchs, 2015:93) Following the autonomist theory of the social factory that describes the blurring of lines between work and leisure, digital labour has become an integral aspect in sustaining the creative economy. This results in a feedback loop that is aimed at redirecting my online behaviour for more targeted ads, and even though I may not necessarily want to purchase any of the items advertised to me, the fact the algorithm was made based on my actions has already generated corporate profit.

Bibliography:

Fuchs, C. (2015) Social media and labour time, Culture and Economy in the Age of Social Media. Abingdon: Routledge.

Networks, digital media and the global economy

How is the consumption of media and culture changing in the digital age? Focus on one creative industry in your answer (e.g. music, publishing, broadcasting, or film) and draw on relevant theories in your answer.

It is undeniable that music has always been a large part of most cultures. Many technological developments have occurred between the phonograph and the age of Spotify and Apple Music. It is hard to imagine a time when people could listen to their favourite song only if someone was playing it. In the networked society music plays a large part in construction of ones identity and is less and less appreciated as a skillful art but more as a soundtrack to relate to, that can easily be substituted with 10 others with a similar mood.Earlier in history, consumption of music happened under the culture of music collection. With the emergence of CD technology people were able to collect as many discs as they were able to afford. But with the development of numerous streaming platforms access to music has become easier than ever.

In the “society that, therefore, we may properly call the network society” (Castells, 2010:500) presence or absense in the network defines characters of sovereignty and development and it is made a crucial aspect to remain in the network to take full advantage of it. This becomes increasingly easier with the network becoming part of our being (e.g. constant contact with the mobile phone) and it becomes harder to maintain traditional modes of consumption.  “Harvey’s thesis is that all capitalist are inherently prone to over-accumulation – caused by the tension between the unending need for growth and the consequences of that growth” (White, 2014: 69) Changing structures of power, and the political and economic implications of such transformations on societies show that in the era of streaming abundance has remained a trend, platforms like Spotify host such a large amount of music one wouldn’t be able to go through it all in a lifetime. Spotify is a free platform that allows its users to enjoy unlimited music collection for a small monthly fee, or you can use the application/site for free with limited amount of skips and lengthy advertisements every 30 minutes. However, the site received some backlash from music producers themselves, saying that with the changing consumption habits people have stopped buying music and unknown artists aren’t able to fulfill their full potential. As a response to this, famous rapper Jay Z establishes a streaming platform called Tidal that makes registration and payment compulsory, but promises all profits to be delivered to the artist. This shows that in the networked society to overcome the network one has to establish a network of their own. But what if you don’t have the economic capital and support system like Jay Z?

 

Bibliography:

Castells, M. (2010) The Rise of the Network Society. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell.Jin, Dal Yong (2013) De-convergence of Global Media Industries. London: Routledge.

White, A. (2014), ‘The Digital Economy and the creative industries’, Digital Media and Society: Transforming Economics, Politics and Social Practices, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

The culturalization of the economy

Take a trip to a bank, a supermarket, an estate agent, or to the premises of another company that operates in the service industries sector (but is not typically seen as part of the creative industries). Using the theories we talked about this week, identify some of the ways in which that business has adopted practices that originate in the creative industries. You might want to comment on the behavior of the company’s employees, the design of the premises, branding, or online content.

 

The post-Fordist general public, has employed reinforcement of civil society and a certain creative organization of service industry sector. As ways to improve economy as well as make societies more efficient government has began advocating art and culture. Yudice explains that, “culture has provided not only ideological uplift, according to which people were gauged to have human worth, but also a material inscription in forms of behavior.” (Yudice, 2003:10) So I headed to Santander bank in order to see for myself what aspects of the business are being culturalized to fit into the standard of the service industry today.

 

A lot of effort had been put into the design of the office, the lines are very clean and the red colour of the Santander brand is prominent throughout the space. The staff spoke by an adjustable script, which made the banking experience seamless and organic, yet slightly impersonal. The leaflets around the office pointed towards the ability of the Santander brand to help increase ones cultural capital, relating economic procedures to recreational activities, e.g. having morning coffee. Artistically merging the logo into the advert also facilitates to the brand attachment and disarms the negative connotation attached to doing ones banking.

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The most recent advert suggests that Santander has adopted schemes that integrate economy into a more individualistic lifestyle rhetoric. Through representational images of true human needs such as connection with friends and loved ones, the rhetoric of ‘keep on, keeping on’ demonstrates Santaders seamless blending of economic needs into daily lives. The cultural aspect of your life and your cultural capital needs are put to the forefront, as the website reads “Make your plans a reality with one of our personal loans”(Santander, 2016) demonstrating that in the society with a creative economy emphasis needs to be redirected. Value comes from symbolic processes not the product itself, therefore companies that historically didn’t have to do much with culture are investing in strategies to produce attached value.screen-shot-2017-01-10-at-12-55-42

Bibliography:

Yudice, G. (2003) The expediencey of culture, The expediency of culture: the uses of culture in the global era. Durham, NC: Duke University Press

Media, Culture and Neoliberalism

Laurie Oullette argues that ‘television is increasingly pivotal to neoliberal approaches to government and the citizen subjectivities on which they depend’ (2009: 227). Apply and discuss this argument, with reference to a television show of your choice

Eight outgoing individuals enjoy an all-inclusive summer holiday looking for love, only to have the party crashed by their vengeful ex-partners. Such predicament could only call for a parade of confrontations, arguments and fist fights. All of which are carefully documented and edited for your entertainment by MTV and presented under a suggestive title – Ex On The Beach.

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 Reality TV is described by Couldry as “secret theatre of neoliberalism” (Couldry, 2008:3), the main secrecy of which is the playful reversal which hides the industry environment normalized under neoliberalism. Ex on the beach participants provide emotional labour of authentic emotions, through alcohol ingestion and emotional stress of orchestrated sitations they are driven to the edge creating the highest rated viewing material of reality television – extreme behaviour. The audience expects trashy, unruly conduct, quite opposite to the notion of “pret behaviour” in which a barista is expected to fake an ‘authentic’ emotion of cheeriness.

In the video below a participant spectating the fight, eggs on the confrontations, acting as an additional narrator for a climactic moment.

Often confused and misunderstood, neoliberalism has been described by Brown as a “peculiar form of reason”(Brown, 2015:17) rather than an ideology. She argues, the contemporary tendency to monetize all aspects of life and treat individuals as investment opportunities has become a natural way of thinking and constructions of ones life priorities. An individual must strive to increase present capital value and be constantly conscious of future opportunities to increase value, “through practices of entrepreneurialism, self-investment, and/or attracting investors” (Brown, 2015:22) Ex On The Beach promotes unhealthy relationship habits and arguably acts as propaganda of distorted ideas about femininity and encourages competition for the attention of men.

Couldry understands neoliberalism as “a system of cruelty” (Couldry, 2008:3) requiring a sustained discipline of our behaviours and reactions, a system that is naturalized through ritualistic representation of specific qualities in media texts. The confrontations and arguments on Ex On The Beach are always resolved through tearful ‘hear-to-heart’ conversations, or another form of emotional punishment, symbolising that violence doesn’t go without repercussion.  People in contemporary society are constrained and surveilled by the system (and by themselves see:Foucault Panopticon) leading them to search for adrenaline in other people out-lashing within their personal relationships, to then judge them and feel better about their mundane existence. We resonate and identify with the people we watch being surveilled, because that is us in our lives and we want to watch someone riot and rebel.

Bibliography:

Brown, W. (2015) ‘Undoing democracy: neoliberalism’s remaking of state and subject’, Undoing the Demos: Neoliberalism’s Stealth Revolution. New York: Zone Books.

Couldry, N. (2008) ‘Reality TV, or the secret theatre of neoliberalism’, Review of Education, Pedagogy, and Cultural Studies 30(1): 3-18.