Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Socratic Dialogue: Facebook advertisements

Jenkins: Like you, Fuchs, I oppose the mass media and broadcasting model. Way too one sided. Instead, as you agree, I believe in a Participatory culture, such a remarkable age… wouldn’t you say?

Fuchs: Yes, indeed dear Jenkins. You are learning great things from studying the Frankfurt school ideologies of social media and participation.

Jenkins: I hope to continually learn more, sir. I would have to start out by saying that I have learned that social media is spreadable, where consumers have an active role in spreading the content of the web to many people, all over the world!

Fuchs: Certainly so. Would you say that they, individually, create and participate?

Jenkins: Hmmm. Well, yes and no. They do participate individually, adding their own thoughts and opinions to the open web. However, they, together, actively shape the media flow so that their culture becomes, together, much more participatory.

Fuchs: So would you say they do this without influence from large corporations or markets?

Jenkins: The spreadable media causes the individual to feel empowered and like they matter in the world, in the market. With their participation the expansion of markets for brands and consumer loyalty increases. Capitalism shapes the circulation of the media, but the individual has their active, and necessary role for this to occur.

Fuchs: So then you would say that audience influence is more important than capitalistic influence? What about how much interaction the individual has with the large corporations via the Internet?

Jenkins: Well, yes. Obviously the people are interacting with the large companies by clicking their ads, looking at their sites, writing reviews and opinions about the individual products. But the web, the social media, it is so much more than corporate capitalism. It is about communication of the people!

Fuchs: It seems as if you are ignoring the democracy within this participatory culture. The distributers and corporations gain democratic profit off of each user on the web who even acknowledges their product, view, or whatever they sell. They claim the consumer’s information and use it to gain an upper hand on the general population.

Jenkins: Well, yes… but…

Fuchs: But nothing. When thinking about participatory culture and the democracy of individuals, you must also think of the ownership democracy that ultimately gains from each individual consumer.

Jenkins: So what you are saying is that the internet culture is controlled by corporations with an agenda, alongside of the political democracy?

Fuchs: Yes, that is exactly what I am saying. One hundred percent correct, Jenkins.

Jenkins: BUT! Consumers have a choice as to if they pay attention to these corporate advertisements. They can be on the side of a social media page; lord knows we all have those annoying sidebars on Facebook, specifically. The consumer is more so on the web, especially the social media, to exchange their views and ideas, talk to their peers and long-distance friends, and to usually stalk their latest crush.

Fuchs: That all sounds wonderful, in a utopian world. Want to get your head out of the clouds and not be so idealistic? And actually look at the Internet and social media realistically, like I do?

Jenkins: What do you mean?

Fuchs: I mean that corporate companies influence much more than what you think. They have a role in almost everything on social media if you look at their roles online, and the consumer’s roles, in a more political scope or lens.

Jenkins: Well Fuchs, I do not see how politics have anything to do with social media, and the users?

Fuchs: Economics and politics go hand in hand, young Jenkins. Users are very valuable to corporations. Through social media, users/consumers provide a great value to them. It is known as relative surplus value, if you want to get technical.

Jenkins: But Fuchs, everything on the web, unless you chose to pay a price to sign up or purchase something, is free!

Fuchs: Yes, it seems that way. But, when you join these free sites, you give up the right to some of your private information.

Jenkins: Such as?

Fuchs: Facebook, for example, sells your information to corporations who advertise on their website. In turn, the companies get to see what the average consumer spends his or her time doing, which then allows them to know their consumer much better. This allows them to make more money by knowing how, and what to sell. They see what attracts you, make their advertisements to please the masses, and in turn get multitudes of revenue. All from seeing what you do while you are on the Internet. You are working for these corporations, for free. As a slave, almost. You are helping them gain capital without even realizing it.

Jenkins: Ah… ha? So they just watch what we do and that is how they make more money? It doesn’t seem that that could help them as much as you imply and say it does.

Fuchs: It is the exploitation of labor, Jenkins. Don’t be so dim. You are brilliant; make the connections in your mind! We – the Internet users – enable surplus value for the corporations. Another example is by simply clicking on an advertisement, we increase the advertising of the company, which leads to higher sales, which obviously… if you use your brain… leads to higher profits for the corporations who post advertisements. And these advertisements seemingly pop up on specific people’s pages, due to tracking of individual interests, like I said above.

Jenkins: So, through figuring out what specific people want, the advertisers know where to put their advertisements. Then, through this, they make even more profit because the advertisements are made and placed to appeal to the individuals they know would want to click on them?

Fuchs: Exactly!

Jenkins: Yeah, but I see tons of different advertisements on my page, all the time. Some are more interesting to me than others, yes. But, I don’t click on all of them, or for that fact hardly any of them. I’m not on Facebook to shop; I am on it to talk.

Fuchs: So you never see any advertisements that appeal to your individual interests? And you NEVER click on these?

Jenkins: I mean, of course I occasionally do. Like the advertisement the other day about a new concert venue opening nearby… Wow, I guess they do know I love music…

Fuchs: And they know that because of your postings, searches, likes, etc. This allows Facebook to put the most appropriate ads for you on your Newsfeed. They group you in age, gender, and even more so dig into your personal history – what you like, or don’t like!

Jenkins: So Facebook just sells my information, groups me in a group, and lets advertisers use this to their gain?

Fuchs: Now, now you are starting to see the light. Enough of this talk, I saw a post on my Newsfeed about a wonderful new Italian place close to my house. See, sometimes it isn’t bad they use our personal information. Because of it, now I will get to go fill my belly with my favorite cuisine!  

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