This is a big chapter – Taylor goes in on marketing and the loss of public privacy, the ecological devastation that springs from the overconsumption of gadgetry, and the undermining of cultural value due to overproduction and planned obsolescene of the materials and tools the consumer engages with, and the emergence of the branded self as the marker of cultural capital. To get right to the point, I believe that what Taylor set’s up for the reader in chapter 6, is an understanding of what the web’s swirling economies and landscapes are actually made up of – much of the same stuff that is fueling the flesh world -hierarchical systems of inequality and waste. Referencing Marx’s “hidden abode of production,” which as many of us at this point would gather is typically revealed to be factory floor spaces or other places where the actual labor is taking place, Taylor spends the chapter bringing the “weightless rhetoric of digital technology” to a visible ground. By pointing to the “people and resources on which these systems depend” in order to de-romanticize the opaque openness of the cultural commons, Taylor breaks down what it is she means when she speaks of the “material reality [that] supports the digital commons… hardware, infrastructure, and content.”
Emphasizing the ecological impact of our consumption, Taylor argues that the hidden costs of our first world desires for the latest and greatest gadgetry position ourselves and the people who labor on these gadgets in places of victimization, although several tiers removed from one another. E-waste is not just that out of date smartphone that gets tossed in the trash – it’s the chemical components that go into its making (from minerals mined by enforced labor) and these chemicals eventually leach out into the earth and into the hands of poorer neighbors in the global south who scavenge these materials for scraps. E-waste is almost sounds like junk mail but that’s the allure of the web, this idea that even your trash will be airy and ephemeral. What is true is that here in the U.S. we do not really evaluate the long standing implications of where all that waste goes, until it shows up in our own backyards. I remember watching a documentary a few years ago that featured footage of mountainous piles of junked cellphones in a village in China, children climbing around it and playing all the while as a strange neon colored liquid seemed to stream out from the base of the pile. That’s the ecological and human impact of E-waste – mysterious neon ooze with zero regulation around it and devastating future health implications. This link highlights the impact:
On the other end of things, in our first world bubble, one of the primary ways that these corporations drive their products and the demand for such cultural capital to the dizzying height that it’s reached is through measuring the impact of the self as a commodity. “Combining the logics of engineering and capitalism, the self has become measurable and maximizable, tallied through metrics such as the number of contacts and Web hits, retweets and reblogs, five stars, ratings, likes, notes, and comments.” The logic follows that the more you participate in online platforms where your brand is cultivated, the more the agencies that calculate your value as someone who will be able to shill their products for them in the most un-shillable way. “The goal, always, is to get more – more friends, more fans, more followers…”
These people are the Tastemakers – “celebrities” propelled forward by their willingness (or in some cases ignorance of how their contribution will be manipulated) to create content that endorses products and brands that will continue to market to their targeted audiences. Their social capital is their branded self. As if there weren’t enough levels of social stratification to contend with – this is the definitely the most transparent reading of what effect these marketing strategies and tech innovations are enabling in our rapidly developing society – further inequality that alienates and separates people from doing the thing that Facebook was supposedly created for – connecting.
Pirate Politics describes the actions of political parties established to advocate for the ethics of online piracy. With the rise of peer to peer services and torrent sites, file sharing has become a global phenomenon and was eventually conflated with an individual rights struggle. The Swedish version of the party is perhaps best known due to widespread cultural tolerance for piracy in Sweden (even allowing for a religious protection under the Church of Kopimism). The German Pirate Party has enjoyed the most political success owing to its upstart Parliamentary wins.
The party characterizes itself as neither left nor right leaning and focuses its energies primarily on promoting government transparency, online and offline privacy and copyright reform (Taylor, p.160).
Pirate politics elevate to a human right the ability to share anything, be it ideas, content, government data or formulae for life saving patent protected pharmaceuticals. The ethic is both anticapitalist and fundamentally reliant on the production of the capitalist system, without which there would be considerably less to pilfer. While there is an economic justice slant that couches piracy in redistributive terms, there does not seem to be a call for an outright abolition of private property. Instead, the goals seem limited to more esoteric concepts such as liberating creativity and equalizing access. There is as much an affinity to creators of content as there is a contempt for big business as the intermediator of content, which leaves piracy enthusiasts in an awkward position as those same companies they revile are responsible for granting wealth to the creators they celebrate.
In chapter 6 “Drawing a Line”, Astra Taylor talks about advertising in our digital time. Advertising is everywhere no matter what you do or where you go. Now our days all advertising posts online, when before most of it was in newspapers, magazines and TV. I don’t know if it is still exist, but few years ago it used to be a newspaper, which was only for advertising.
Now, if you go online to do something, it is always advertising popping out. Crazy part is that it remembers what sites you visited and what you checked. Later advertising just comes up in a random time and usually it is something similar what you have been interesting in or saw before. It is like someone watching you behind the screen. Here comes the term “reputation silos”. This is sort of a profile made by our personal information like gender, race, religion, age and etc. “We are been sorted into “reputation silos” that can be surprisingly difficult to get of”. The bad part about it that it is illegal for the companies, for example, has all this information.
Of course we can go anywhere without our gadgets. Here is another term comes as “e-waste”. Our time is moving very fast, that’s why it always something new coming out. Every year comes lots of different gadgets. For example as soon as Apple iPhone comes out, everyone trying to get it as soon as possible. But the question is where goes all this gadgets that we don’t use any more or the one we don’t buy. This is all “garbage”, but the problem is that all this hundreds of million gadgets not recycling by people. “And so our mountains of e-waste grow three times faster than the piles of the regular garbage accumulating all around us”.
While Taylor makes some good points in this chapter, the advertising schemes she decries are not exactly new to the digital landscape. The techniques of tailored market research and targeted advertising have existed in television and print advertising for at least the last half century, perhaps most notably through Nielsen’s data collection methods for television and via survey informed advertorials in newspapers and magazines. Today these tactics simply fall under new names such as SEO and Native Advertising. What distinguishes the actual application of these new technologies is that they are individuated and tend to have a cumulative effect as the number of data points to identify a user increase. While native advertising is certainly a disreputable way to make a living as a journalist, in a way it’s an evolution of a well established practice within the field. It can be argued that this more personalized advertising has more utility for the reader, the ethics of it are highly dubious as the reader may believe they are reading earnest product or service reviews. Again, the problem here seems to have less to do with the tools in the digital milieu than it does with the normalization of exploitative practices toward consumers so prevalent in American society.
More disquieting is the creation of reputation silos within the personas created by our aggregate searches. These silos, which label users into categories of targets or waste reinforce inequality by beginning their search result steering using a fairly comprehensive, but uncritical set of data including our social relationships, our geography, our demographics and our (online) behavior. Again, however, these tactics are not new as the credit industry has used analogous methods in determining who can participate in the economy practically since its inception. What is threatening about this practice online is that it will inevitably insulate certain users from experiences in the name of personalization. Further, the lack of forgetting online means there is little opportunity to rehabilitate one’s online persona short of using private browsing services. Tailored search is useful, and in e-commerce, almost preferable, but algorithms can sometimes produce baffling results that alienate rather than reassure users.
Taylor defines “Free” in two different ways, first in a cultural way, free refers as belonging to everyone and something that no one can own; it belongs to all “knowledge cannot be owned and we have a responsibility to share it” (Taylor, Loc 2210).
Free is also referred as cognition that is public property. Moreover, in the digital world free can be perceived as “ free access”, “free download”, “openness”. According to the software programmer Richard Stallman, Free has two sides “ There’s ‘free’ as in speech and ‘free’ as in beer, as the famous” (Taylor, Loc2241), meaning, that is free culture is for the people to enrich from it, however there is a public ownership. As an example, Taylor states that “ art and culture are nonetheless vital, essential eve, to what it means to be human, yet digital abundance diminished our sense of their work” (Taylor Loc.2252). Free, is about keeping culture open meaning that since no one forces an artist to release their work, once they do release it, it should really be free to spread.
Group: Giselle Lopez, Yauheniya Chuyashova
The scary thought of the computer tracking us, seeing what we like and what we search often is described to us in Chapter 6. It becomes a disturbing reality when we see all the ways this is happening in our “attention economy.”
Taylor points out that we are in “reputation silos” (190). This means that we are labeled by what we do on the Internet and this in turn, manages what we are exposed to and what products or information we are given. This economy that we experience in the computer world is solely based off us. An example that occurred to me was when I was looking online for items to get for Mother’s Day. I was deciding on whether to get a jewelry box or earrings. After questioning my options, I had enough and exited the browser. The next day I open up to Facebook and the first thing I see as soon as I scroll down my feed is an advertisement for the same exact jewelry box I was looking at before. It was like my computer had decided for me. Skip a few months after and I still see it pop up today, like a constant reminder of that day.
Another thing that is circulating in this economy is the idea of “native advertising” (194). It’s summed up as a post that allows readers or viewers to be able to enjoy their content while also receiving a message from advertisements. In the book it states that BuzzFeed is the leader in bringing out this idea. As a dedicated viewer of BuzzFeed videos, I can say this is absolutely true. Just the other night one of the ads, on a BuzzFeed video, was a BuzzFeed video that took three couples and showed us how they drove. It was an ad for a specific car brand, but it was done in a way where you actually want to watch the ad instead of skipping it. It’s definitely eye-opening to read about the ways we get trapped in this “attention economy.”
group: Yesenia Williams, Marisa Chung, Farrah Duplessis
In Chapter 4, Taylor defines “second level digital divide” as socially stratified variations in online skills and behaviors. She brings up the notion that there is inequality amongst people in their online usage, specifically high or low income; contrary to the belief that once all people are logged in there is digital equality. There are differences in people’s online skills such as frequency, patterns, or ability to research many topics. In analyzing the internet users, the most significant difference are in access, who has it versus who doesn’t, and how it is being used and their ability to find information. Second level digital divide is a socioeconomic creation that separates society and initiates inequality based on race, gender, and social class. An example would be a person who can only afford a cell phone versus a home, or school computer to conduct their searches and research. One will have a significant better chance and opportunity to conduct those searches versus the other. These disparities can play a role in any future ability to get a job, start a business, or excel in school.
This chapter was so interesting. To discuss digital media from the perspective of inequality brought to the forefront issues not typically talked about. The ability to measure the discrimination and biases that occur online can be difficult. The people utilizing the web come from all walks of life with numerous motivations. Taylor finds that with the second level digital divide, amongst other ways that discrimination occurs on the web whether it’s race, gender etc. this is only one topic among many that needs attention. With choosing to tackle them, gives hope for a better Internet culture. It needs to start with the reality that inequality exists in a place where we least expect it.
Hybrid Assignment 04
September 29, 2015
Chapter 6 touches up on many of the different topics that we have been discussing about thus far in class, as well as in our hybrid assignments. Some of the topics include privacy, advisement, what is considered “free”, unfairness, and etc. In this new digital economy, Taylor describes many of the dilemmas that are circulating us as the target audience.
One of the problems mentioned in chapter 6 by Taylor states that individuals are being sorted into “reputation solos” which is a system that seems like a trap. Taylor mentions that once we are part of this system, it can be difficult to get out of. In addition, she also includes that in this system we are being labeled as either targets or waste. When it comes to digital media, reputation solos is a system where it depends heavily on what we are being exposed as individuals. Our information, which can be private or not, has become the target to determine the “labeling”. And with the results they make predictions on what kind of person we are as an individual. Whether it is by advertisement, collecting our date, or simply by tracking our interest, our information is being sold as the “product”
Another term Taylor mentions in chapter 6 that has been an upcoming problem in our new digital era is called “e-waste”, which she states that it can grow three times faster than the piles of regular garbage accumulating all around us. E-waste is described as discarded electrical devices, such as computer, cell phones, etc. which is NOT recyclable. This has already become a major problem in our new digital economy, and it seems as though it will only get worse by time.
Because of the power of advertising dollars, particularly those spent on targeted advertising, the Internet’s cultural landscape is not as diverse as many hoped it to be. The types of content we see on the Internet are based on our online activities, basically on our every click. Advertisers buy our information from the websites and search engines we visit, the social media network we participate in, the products we buy and/or review, the movies and videos we watch, the music we listen to, and the books, articles, stories, and news that we read and share. Advertisers invest their money on websites that are visited by a large number of audience, making sure that their messages will be read, watched, and/or heard, and eventually resulting to the audience buying their products or services. This is why it is very important for websites to produce content that are most likely to catch the audiences’ attention and clicks.
One type of online advertising is called “native advertising” in which advertisements are designed and created in a similar format, style, and tone as that of the articles on the website they are being featured on. Even the titles of the ads do not seem like they are advertisements. They actually blend in with the articles on the website, making it more likely for the users to click on them.
As we click on the content, our personal data/information is collected, shared, and sold. Additionally, we are labeled and profiled based on the information they have gathered, as well as their analysis of our online activities and interactions such as our likes on social media sites, our comments on articles or forums, the keywords we search, just to name a few. And it does not stop there. We are not only labeled and profiled, but we are also, as Taylor stated, “being sorted into ‘reputation silos’ that can be surprisingly difficult to get out of” (p. 190). This does not just affect the content and the advertisements that we see (and how they differ from our friends and other audience based on the profiles they generated for us) but in other aspects of our lives such as economically/financially (e.g. for loans or mortgage application) as well.
In chapter 6, Taylor argues that while many people hoped that the internet would bring a more varied landscape, advertising dollars have distorted the market by creating perverse incentives and encouraging the production of irresistibly clickable content. Taylor uses a term called “native advertising” to explain this phenomenon, which is basically just a fancy way of saying that one’s online behavior is monitored and therefore the products that you are exposed too are simply a result of your likes or dislikes being interpreted through the sites you frequently visit, and the items you show interest in online. The text states “product placement is on the upsurge, growing at a rate of 30 percent per year despite the recession, and branded content is all the rage. Conventional disclosure laws do not apply online or are simply impossible to enforce. This kind of stealth marketing has a corrosive effect on public discourse, institutional integrity goes out the window when editorial content adapts to advertiser demands.” In other words, the pair of shoes you were searching before didn’t just happen to pop up at the bottom of your screen because it’s the universe’s way of saying you should buy it, it popped up because we are targeted victims of advertisers.
As a result of this cultural shift, even authors have been encouraged to cultivate identities as “tastemakers” in order to capitalize on the shift to electronic reading. They are encouraged to team up with certain brands in order to market themselves to readers. Now, not only does the reader learn of a new book by his/her favorite author, but the reader is inclined to purchase that new jacket or bbq sauce that the author is promoting as well. As Taylor states ” It’s advertising system is explicitly designed to figure out which messages are most likely to grab our attention and then to place those messages in our field of view.” This is the essence of native advertising and the strategy behind “tastemakers.”