Social Net-working: Exploring the Political Economy of the Online Social Network Industry

Craig Butosi (cbutosi@gmail.com)
Faculty of Information and Media Studies, Western University
August, 2012
Full text (external site)
 
My research interests broadly include the political economy of communication, the role of surveillance in the information economy, and labour within contemporary capitalism. My theoretical orientations are centred on critical theory, Marxist political economy, and the philosophical considerations of neo-Marxism. Methodological approaches to social research include cultural materialism, critical discourse analysis, and content analysis. My current research focus is based on making sense of the current capitalist online information/media economy. Broadly, I am interested in exploring the affinities and contradictions between culture, economy, and media, and how each of these spheres of social life (made possible by labour/work processes) are interlinked and constitute each other.
 

Abstract

This study explores the nascent political economy of the online social network industry. Exemplars of online social networking, Facebook and Twitter have been often understood as revolutionary new media tools. My findings show that these social networks are taking on a logic of capitalist production and accumulation, calling into question their perceived revolutionary character. Evidence suggests that user-generated content are now being commodified and exchanged for profit.

A critical discourse analysis of Facebook and Twitter’s privacy policy and terms of use reveals that these texts primarily function as work contracts rather than as treatises on privacy protection. Drawing on the work of Karl Marx, this study revisits his theory of value and develops an expanded form of variable capital model to demonstrate how social net-workers fit into this new capitalist circuit of accumulation. This extension of the working day is problematic. Policy recommendations are offered in order to negate the commodification of user data.
  •  Announcements
    Atom logo
    RSS2 logo
    RSS1 logo
  •  Current Issue
    Atom logo
    RSS2 logo
    RSS1 logo
  •  Thesis Abstracts
    Atom logo
    RSS2 logo
    RSS1 logo

We wish to acknowledge the financial support of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council for their financial support through theAid to Scholarly Journals Program.

SSHRC LOGO