Taylor 04


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.


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