Article

Social media and self-evaluating assemblages: On numbers, orderings and values

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Abstract

This paper takes tools of self-valuation in social media as an empirical focus. By way of a case-study of Klout, an influential measure of influence, we suggest that the forms of reactivity and self-fulfilling prophecy that have been identified as a problem with some forms of measurement are actually an intentional effect of such tools: that is, the measurements that such tools produce are not designed to capture a separate reality, but are deliberately employed to modify the activity that they themselves invite. In other words, they expect and exploit reactivity. We suggest that such media are indicative of the rise in what might be called participative metrics of value. We further suggest that the capacity to evaluate and modify the self that Klout affords is intricately tied up with the agency and (self-)valuation of Klout as a tool itself. An intermediate layer of the argument is that this tying up is achieved through the production of numbers as specific kinds of ‘enumerated entities’. We use this term to draw attention to the ways in which numbers are never simply abstractions, but always have specific material-semiotic properties. In this case, we show that these properties are tied to the use of media-specific operations, and that these properties, including those of inclusion and belonging, inform how Klout participates in particular kinds of ordering and valuation. We thus explore the interlinked movement of numbers, media, and value in social media as a kind of dynamic assemblage.

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... As highlighted by the previous work in the business and economics literature, these aspects are crucial parts of platform governance. However, how these are structured by the design and embodied by the platform are not studied much (Gerlitz and Lury, 2014;Lampe, 2014;Pellikka, 2014). For instance, social media metrics are argued to be distinctive design features that are employed in ways that would develop a state of reactive tendency. ...
... As distinct design choices, these metrics, in the form of structured platform actions, are argued to be strategically used by social media platforms based on the perceived ability of a particular metric to increase or decrease user participation (Grosser, 2014). In this regard, they are conceived of as intentionally used to invite and exploit 'reactivity' from users (Gerlitz and Lury, 2014). ...
... This is because people are reactive; that is, they change their behaviour in reaction to being evaluated, observed, or measured. From this perspective, Gerlitz and Lury (2014) argue that a distinct form of reactivity is purposefully created in social media to incentivise users to continuously participate in content production and platform activity. The main reason behind this is that social media platforms are essentially empty lots until users produce content and interact with each other through user-generated content. ...
Thesis
There are long-standing practices and processes that have traditionally mediated between the processes of production and consumption of cultural content. The prominent instances of these are: curating content by identifying and selecting cultural content in order to promote to a particular set of audiences; measuring audience behaviours to construct knowledge about their tastes; and guiding audiences through recommendations from cultural experts. These cultural intermediation processes are currently being transformed, and social media platforms play important roles in this transformation. However, their role is often attributed to the work of users and/or recommendation algorithms. Thus, the processes through which data about users’ taste are aggregated and made ready for algorithmic processing are largely neglected. This study takes this problematic as an important gap in our understanding of social media platforms’ role in the transformation of cultural intermediation. To address this gap, the notion of platformization is used as a theoretical lens to examine the role of users and algorithms as part of social media’s distinct data-based sociotechnical configuration, which is built on the so-called ‘platform-logic’. Based on a set of conceptual ideas and the findings derived through a single case study on a music discovery platform, this thesis developed a framework to explain ‘platformization of cultural intermediation’. This framework outlines how curation, guidance, and measurement processes are ‘plat-formed’ in the course of development and optimisation of a social media platform. This is the main contribution of the thesis. The study also contributes to the literature by developing the concept of social media’s engines for ‘making up taste’. This concept illuminates how social media operate as sociotechnical cultural intermediaries and participates in tastemaking in ways that acquire legitimacy from the long-standing trust in the objectivity of classification, quantification, and measurement processes.
... The constitution of 'self' through digital data is a central social and political concern for both social science and public debate (Lupton, 2016;Gerlitz and Lury, 2014;Giroux, 2015;Pasquale, 2015). Sociologists have begun mapping the territory of a digitised popular culture (Beer and Gane, 2008;Beer and Burrows, 2013) and argued that in 'new social life of data' we need to understand how the 'performativity of data circulation … feeds into the performance of subjectivity and the constitution of everyday experiences' (Beer and Burrows, 2013: 68). ...
... This disquiet with quantified expressions of human worth is a leitmotif in classic critiques of modernity (Durkheim, 1971;Marx, 1976;Simmel, 1990). Yet the paradox of our dissatisfaction with metricised forms of selfworth is that such platforms also constitute a crucial basis to our individuality and its acknowledgement by others (Gerlitz and Lury, 2014). As this dissatisfaction runs through both academic criticism as well as social media users, this article provides a cultural sociological account of the performance of disquiet through the case of videoblogging on YouTube. ...
Article
Digital data is constitutive of many forms of popular culture and user engagement. How data feeds back and is integrated into practice is of critical importance when it comes to analysing the place of the ‘self’ in contemporary culture. This article provides an account of video-blogging on YouTube. It takes as its case study three UK ‘YouTube Celebrities’ – Charlie McDonnell, Chris Kendall and Benjamin Cook – and focuses upon three vlogs which all express disquiet with their celebrity. This unease is articulated in relation to the digital consummation of self YouTube provides its users. Through a textual and performance analysis the article explores the cultural heritage of the vlog in what Charles Taylor calls western culture’s ‘expressive turn’. It argues that what a digitised popular culture gives us is a novel space to rework longstanding cultural ideals around the self, individuality and self-expression.
... In the first group, diverse forms of platform-centred analysis are dominant. For example, Gerlitz and Lury (2014) analyse the numbers and measures used in the interface of the influence measurement platform Klout, in order to suggest that they perform the role of 'participative metrics of value'. Similarly, Graham (2018) studies the numbers and ratings of TripAdvisor to argue how choice is influenced by rankings. ...
... When metrics are made visible, users are prompted to make judgements about content or people they encounter in their social media feed, and to express these judgements through the means that the platform offers (Gerlitz and Lury, 2014). Simultaneously, user reactions and judgements are captured, valorised and used to make further predictions about users' potential engagements with the platform (see Berman and Hirschman, 2018;Espeland and Sauder, 2007). ...
Article
This article argues for an expansion of existing studies on the meaning of metrics in digital environments by evaluating a methodology tested in a pilot study to analyse audience responses to metrics of social media profiles. The pilot study used the software tool Facebook Demetricator by artist Ben Grosser in combination with follow-up interviews. In line with Grosser’s intentions, the software indeed provoked reflection among the users. In this article, we reflect on three kinds of disorientations that users expressed, linked to temporality, sociality and value. Relating these to the history of audience measurement in mass media, we argue that there is merit in using this methodology for further analysis of continuities in audience responses to metrics, in order to better understand the ways in which metrics work to create the ‘audience commodity’.
... This in turn drives individuals to monitor and change their behaviour but also shapes where and how people receive information on which future behaviour is based and value may be assigned (cf. Gerlitz & Lury, 2014;Lugosi, 2016;Pariser, 2011). Exploring the broader assemblage, which accounts more fully for the non-human, technological actors, and the co-existence of objects and humans as proposed by Hoffman and Novak (2017), offers new opportunities for future more-than-human netnographies to contribute to knowledge in marketing and consumer research. ...
... As we stated previously, much of the analysis in existing netnographic studies focuses on visible data. However, Gerlitz and Helmond (2013), Gerlitz and Lury (2014) and others have demonstrated the multiple forms of technology and (meta) data that have fundamental roles in shaping the form and substance of technology-mediated sociality. Accounting for this will require a widening of expertise, such as the development and deployment of new forms of computing expertise to harvest and order digital data (Marres, 2012); identify and sort URL and hashtag information from large data sets (Arvidsson & Caliandro, 2015), distinguish the roles of bots in social networks (Varol, Ferrara, Davis, Menczer, & Flammini, 2017), or to understand more generally the capacity of computational code (Beaulieu, 2017). ...
Article
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Drawing on Actor-network theory (ANT), this paper develops a 'more-than-human' conception of netnography to extend current thinking on the scope, focus and methods of netnographic research. The proposed approach seeks to account more clearly for the role of human and non-human actors in networked sociality and sets out to examine the interactions of people, technology and socio-material practices. The paper critiques reductive applications of netnography, bound by proceduralism, and advocates research that embraces the complex, multi-temporal, multi-spatial nature of internet and technology-mediated sociality. It challenges researchers to examine and account for the performative capacities of actors and their practices of enactment. By synthesising insights from ANT and emerging work in marketing and consumer research that adopts relational approaches, this paper outlines the challenges and opportunities in developing more-than-human netnographies as an approach to extend current netnography.
... We argue that the role of social media platforms in the "formatting" and curation of engagement between science and society needs to be more proactively taken into account in the development of social media metrics (Marres, 2015). In social media, a variety of actors, including scientists, journalists, policy-makers, activists, marketing professionals, and public commentators participate in science communication, and platform metrics orient communication toward specific ideals of spread-ability and influence gained through networking (Fourcade & Healy, 2017;Gerlitz & Lury, 2014) something which (Gerlitz & Lury, 2014) refer to as the "reactivity of social media measures". ...
... We argue that the role of social media platforms in the "formatting" and curation of engagement between science and society needs to be more proactively taken into account in the development of social media metrics (Marres, 2015). In social media, a variety of actors, including scientists, journalists, policy-makers, activists, marketing professionals, and public commentators participate in science communication, and platform metrics orient communication toward specific ideals of spread-ability and influence gained through networking (Fourcade & Healy, 2017;Gerlitz & Lury, 2014) something which (Gerlitz & Lury, 2014) refer to as the "reactivity of social media measures". ...
Article
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Social media metrics have a genuine networked nature, reflecting the networking characteristics of the social media platform from where they are derived. This networked nature has been relatively less explored in the literature on altmetrics, although new network‐level approaches are starting to appear. A general conceptualization of the role of social media networks in science communication, and particularly of social media as a specific type of interface between science and society, is still missing. The aim of this paper is to provide a conceptual framework for appraising interactions between science and society in multiple directions, in what we call heterogeneous couplings. Heterogeneous couplings are conceptualized as the co‐occurrence of science and non‐science objects, actors, and interactions in online media environments. This conceptualization provides a common framework to study the interactions between science and non‐science actors as captured via online and social media platforms. The conceptualization of heterogeneous couplings opens wider opportunities for the development of network applications and analyses of the interactions between societal and scholarly entities in social media environments, paving the way toward more advanced forms of altmetrics, social (media) studies of science, and the conceptualization and operationalization of more advanced science‐society studies.
... Where social media use data is accessible, a number of third-party tools, like Klout or Tweetstats, have attempted to aid self-evaluation through ranking and visibility metrics (Paper.li, Likejournal, Twylah for Twitter) (Gerlitz and Lury, 2014; see also Hearn, 2010;van Dijck, 2013). Visibility metrics indicate forms of social media presence along with some degree of "notice" (Bruns and Stieglitz, 2013). ...
... Andrejevic, et al. (2015) describe data analytics as "techno-economic constructs whose operations have important implications for the management of populations and the formation of subjects". Social media analytics are first and foremost techniques of market segmentation, so these tools and the platform features they leverage work to multiply, quantify and in turn deepen processes of segmentation by incremental adjustments to interface design, affordances and subsequent cultures of use (Gerlitz and Lury, 2014;van Dijck, 2013). ...
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In a postdemographic world, characterized by the continuous production and calculation of social data in the form of likes, comments, shares, keywords, locations or hashtags, social media platforms are designed with techniques of market segmentation in mind. "Datafication" challenges the agency of participatory social media practices and traditional accounts of the presentation of self in the use of social media. In the process, a tension or paradox arises between the personal, curative or performative character of social media practices and the calculative design and commercial usefulness of platforms and apps. In this paper I interrogate this paradox, and explore the potential role of metrics and analytics for emergent data literacies. By drawing together common self-oriented metrics across dominant platforms, the paper emphasizes analytics targets around a) profile, b) activity, c) interactivity and d) visibility, as a step toward developing new data literacies.
... Before reaggregating platform data into new second order metrics, it is important to understand what is being counted in the first places, as 100k tweets have a different value in research if issued from political protesters, cross-syndicated from Instagram or issued by spam-bot networks. The fact that numbers are easy to be displaced, circulated and reaggregated has led to their constant re-evaluation by a multiplicity of actors, reassembling them for intelligence, indicators for engagement, issue detectors or influence rankings (Gerlitz & Lury 2014), to name only a few. Once reassembled into new second order metrics, the question of what the original data points are composed of descends into the background. ...
Book
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The large corpus of empirical data and available tools for data collection and analysis are changing the ways knowledge is produced. For the humanities, this transformation requires not only that we must critically inquire into how technology affects our understanding of knowledge and how it alters our epistemic processes, but that we also need to employ the new data resources and technologies in new ways of scholarly investigation. The Datafied Society: Studying Culture Through Data thinks through the opportunities and pitfalls of doing research with data provides within the humanities (and media studies in particular). It covers different research methods, considers how researchers can engage with the datafied society, and reflects on moral and discrimination issues that need to be tackled when embarking on research. Through a series of four short interviews with leading scholars it furthermore pinpoints the key ideas in big data research. This book is a collection of scholarly investigations into computer-aided methods and practices. While several contributors offer essays representing their skills, methods and exemplary research projects, others reflect on the sensibilities and competencies that scholars need to develop in order to study contemporary culture through data. Together they make a volume that will stimulate and engage humanities scholars via their perspectives on debates and reflections on the theory and practices of digital data research.
... Professors are rated by their students, their articles hierarchized by citation counts, their journals ranked by impact factors, and their disciplines scored by their relative sexiness (Felton et al., 2008). Wines can be ranked by their Parker score (Chauvin, 2016), your credit rating expressed by your FICO score (Poon, 2007), and the impact of your online presence in the social media world measured by your Klout score (Gerlitz and Lury, 2014). Some ratings and rankings have been around for a while. ...
Article
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Ratings and rankings are criticized for being simplistic, obscurantist, inaccurate, and subjective, yet they are becoming an increasingly influential social form. We elaborate the criticisms of ratings and rankings in various fields but go on to argue that analysis should shift its target. The problem that ratings deal with is not observation of an independent world. Instead, the challenge they face is the circularity of second-order observation in which observations must take into account the observations of others. To this purpose they function well enough not because they mirror how things are but because they offer a highly visible reference point to which others are attentive and thereby provide an orientation to navigate uncertainty. The concluding section places the problem of ratings and rankings in a broader historical perspective, contrasting the ranked society to the society of rankings. Responding to uncertainty, ratings and rankings perpetuates rather than eliminates anxiety.
... Numbers such as these are part of a long-term trend toward quantification-"a constitutive feature of modern science and social organization" (Espeland & Stevens, 2008, p. 402)-and convey a sense of objectivity (Kovacic, 2018) that derives from the centrality of statistics both in policymaking and in everyday life (Alonso & Starr, 1987). Moreover, this kind of quantification, or metrification (Beer, 2016;McCosker, 2017), is precisely what we expect from companies such as Facebook; after all, social media users are by now quite used to seeing affective responses to content transformed in real time into numbers, such as Likes and Shares (Gerlitz & Helmond, 2013;Gerlitz & Lury, 2014). 829863S MSXXX10.1177/2056305119829863Social ...
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If we live in media, then our knowledge of our social lives must, at least partly, come from those media. It is in this context that I analyze www.facebook.com/peace, a page that claims to show “how many new friendships formed just yesterday” between Facebook users from the opposing sides of three different protracted conflicts. However, the numbers seem unfeasible, leading to a series of attempts to try and evaluate them independently, as well as to ask Facebook if they could explain them. This article presents these failed efforts to verify the numbers published by Facebook, and the subsequent conclusion that they are, technically speaking, bullshit, and more specifically, social media bullshit. It is in reaching this conclusion that the article contributes to theoretical discussions around data, social media, and knowledge.
... (Rieder, 2017, p. 6) This environment is generative of reactivity dynamics (Espeland & Sauder, 2007) whereby users modify their behaviours in response to the evaluations that the platform makes available. As platforms are organised around "the pursuit of participation" (Bucher, 2012b, p. 10), this is a dynamic that platforms welcome and encourage (Gerlitz & Lury, 2014). The constant pressure to perform to the metrics and gain visibility, is generative of both grassroots responses in the form of how-to guides for increasing visibility by accumulating currency, i.e. stars (see, e.g., Neculai, 2017;Suri, 2017), as well as commercial initiatives that enable the purchase of false stars and followers (Governor, 2017). ...
Thesis
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News work is increasingly taking place in and through a variety of intersecting digital devices, from websites, to search engines, online platforms, apps, bots, web analytics, data analysis and visualisation tools. These devices are also increasingly used as resources in digital research, and their implications are yet to be fully understood. This thesis examines how digital objects participate in news work and research. To this end, I propose an orientation towards the news device as a research topic and approach. The news device approach calls attention to the ways in which practices and relations are co-produced with digital objects involved in news work. It also attends to how such digital devices may afford modes of studying these practices. To make the case for this approach, I examine the participation of three types of devices in three aspects of news work: (1) the role of the network graph in journalistic storytelling, (2) the role of the online platform in journalism coding, and (3) the role of the web tracker in news audience commodification. In all, the thesis contributes to understanding the digital transformations of news in two ways. First, it develops a rich, nuanced, multidisciplinary, collaborative and reflexive approach to news research with digital methods. Secondly, it provides novel insights into how digital devices shape both news processes and relations with the online advertising and marketing industries, commercial online platforms, digital visual culture, and other digital content producers.
... forms of patronage" (5) -, and third, that they draw upon or are adaptations of, existing resources, methodological, cultural, or social. This critical perspective, which is particularly indebted to arguments put forward by researchers in the field of Science and Technology Studies (STS), has renewed interest in the question of method and has generated a host of studies around methods in statistics practices and packages (e.g., Mair, Greiffenhagen, andSharrock 2013, 2015;Uprichard, Burrows, and Byrne, 2008), the social sciences and the "politics of method" (Ruppert, Law, and Savage 2013;Savage 2010;Savage and Burrows 2007), digital social research (e.g., Lury and Wakeford 2012; Marres and Gerlitz 2014; Weltevrede 2013), digital methods (Rogers 2013), computational social science ), numbers and numbering practices (e.g., Day, Lury, and Wakeford 2014;Gerlitz and Lury 2014), big data practices (e.g., Barocas and Selbst 2015;Kitchin 2014;Taylor, Schroeder, and Meyer 2014), and so forth. ...
Thesis
This thesis investigates prediction and the stuff of which it is made. Over the recent years social media have attracted both an academic and public interest in its “predictive power”; but when it comes to making predictions people generally agree that this is “hard” or “tough”, especially when it involves uncertainty with regards to the future. Predictions are accomplishments and require a purpose, considerable social and intellectual investment from sponsors or advocates, and mobilisation of existing conceptual and material resources. Rather than a specialist reading of concrete cases of prediction, the objective of this thesis is to develop a framework for conceptualising and analysing the stuff of prediction in at least some of the many ways that it exists, and in which it is imagined, accomplished, experienced, and thought through. More specifically, it investigates the stuff of prediction both empirically and conceptually (and historically), with a particular focus on the specificity of its techniques as they find application in concrete settings. Two emblematic practical goals or purposes for social media-based prediction are investigated: forecasting the pulse of social media streams and the surveillance of influenza-like illness using Web search data. How to analyse the relation between the stuff of prediction and the social circumstances and practicalities with which it is inevitably entangled? What are techniques of prediction using their resources for? At the same time it also does a methodological contribution by making the exploration of what it means to take prediction as an object of study an integral part of the project itself, as opposed to committing to such a view from the outset. What does it mean to take prediction as an object of study; how to conceive of it intellectually? Responding to a growing public and academic interest in the predictive power of social media, and in prediction as a way of dealing with challenges characterised by uncertainty and risk more generally, the proposed framework enables a critical analysis of the production of prediction with a particular sensitivity towards its techniques, the resources they mobilise in light of a certain specific practical goal, and the social and cultural significance of their applications in diverse concrete settings.
... The concept can promote the exploration of how the emergent selves fit into larger structures of the digital technology market and the role that metrics play in defining them. This kind of approach can further highlight how social media users intersect with, or disrupt the pre-coded aspects of the self and the everyday (Baym, 2013), and how numbers become part of the attachment felt toward a service or a platform, supporting and shaping participation (Gerlitz and Lury, 2014). ...
Article
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Seen in a longitudinal perspective, Quantified Self-inspired self-tracking sets up “a laboratory of the self,” where people co-evolve with technologies. By exploring ways in which self-tracking technologies energize everyday aims or are experienced as limiting, we demonstrate how some aspects of the self are amplified while others become reduced and restricted. We suggest that further developing the concept of the laboratory of the self renews the conversation about the role of metrics and technologies by facilitating comparison between different realms of the digital, and demonstrating how services and devices enlarge aspects of the self at the expense of others. The use of self-tracking technologies is inscribed in, but also runs counter to, the larger political-economy landscape. Personal laboratories can aid the exploration of how the techno-mediated selves fit into larger structures of the digital technology market and the role that metrics play in defining them.
... Eu discuto o tipo de métricas que têm sido desenvolvidas ao longo dos últimos anos para argumentar que essas medidas, tal como as pontuações do Klout, quantificam nossos modos de engajamento com base em suposições específicas sobre o uso das mídias sociais (Beer, 2016;Gerlitz & Lury, 2014;Van Doorn, 2014). Para que servem as mídias sociais? ...
... Eu discuto o tipo de métricas que têm sido desenvolvidas ao longo dos últimos anos para argumentar que essas medidas, tal como as pontuações do Klout, quantificam nossos modos de engajamento com base em suposições específicas sobre o uso das mídias sociais (Beer, 2016;Gerlitz & Lury, 2014;Van Doorn, 2014). Para que servem as mídias sociais? ...
... Ràfols' proposal to treat indicators as participatory devices resonates in interesting ways with recent work by Celia Lury and colleagues, in which they seek to clarify the double role of methods in society and culture as "means by which the social world is not only investigated, but may also be engaged" (Lury & Wakeford, 2012, p. 6). In a recent paper, Gerlitz and Lury (2014) extend this perspective to social media metrics: They point out that metrics such as the Klout score-a popular, aggregate measure of influence across different online platforms such as Twitter and Facebookmay operate simultaneously in two registers: On the one hand, they perform an epistemic operation by ordering relations between social media users through mathematical operations of quantification (producing, among other things, influence rankings). On the other hand, they enable participation as they assemble users into a dynamic collective, by enabling these users, as well as third parties, to compare, contrast, and relate to one another by way of Klout scores. ...
Article
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This article discusses a project under development called “Inventing Indicators of Interdisciplinarity,” as an example of work in methodology development that combines quantitative methods with interpretative approaches in social and cultural research. Key to our project is the idea that Science and Technology Indicators do not only have representative value, enabling empirical insight into fields of research and innovation, but simultaneously have organizing capacity, as their deployment enables the curation of communities of interpretation. We begin with a discussion of concepts and methods for the analysis of interdisciplinarity in Science and Technology Studies (STS) and scientometrics, stressing that both fields recognize that interdisciplinarity is contested. To make possible a constructive exploration of interdisciplinarity as a contested—and transformative—phenomenon, we sketch out a methodological framework for the development and deployment of “engaging indicators.” We characterize this methodology of indicating as participatory, abductive, interactive, and informed by design, and emphasize that the method is inherently combinatory, as it brings together approaches from scientometrics, STS, and humanities research. In a final section, we test the potential of our approach in a pilot study of interdisciplinarity in AI, and offer reflections on digital mapping as a pathway towards indicating interdisciplinarity.
... The second, more 'quantitatively' focused, was heavily reliant on the use of new social media technologies and online influence measurement tools. These generated an automatic score based on a variety of criteria related to the popularity of a ranking (e.g. the number of times a ranking is mentioned or shared across various social media platforms [Gerlitz and Lury 2014]). One AR specialist told us, "I understand the whole tiering better than anyone else, especially when it comes to social media because I have developed tools that can do that, that no one else has got" (interview, DD). ...
... They may be somewhat 'false numbers' as Martha Lampland suggests, designed to enable certain forms of rationalization (Lampland 2010) or investment (Plassnig 2016). They have the feel of what Carolin Gerlitz and Celia Lury describe in their study of the social reputation website Klout as 'reactive numbers' meant to evoke further work, action, and engagement (Gerlitz and Lury 2014). They may support claims of global importance. ...
Article
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Platforms are important actors in contemporary cultural economic processes. They include social network sites, online content management systems, streaming media platforms, mobile communication infrastructures, supply chain logistics solutions, and cryptocurrencies. Analysis of platforms and their capitalization should take into account the ways they structure social practice as assets and the constitutive opacity of platforms as configured realities. It explores capitalization by focusing on the problems of counting people and things on platforms. Via a case study of the software repository platform [Github.com] (https://github.com), it analyzes how 'platform numbers’ participate in capitalization. It describes attempts to enumerate the elements of the platform by counting, mapping or listing them. The paper shows how attempts to enumerate people and things encounter forms of association, duplication, combination, imitation and configuration that are crucial to the ensemble but remain refractory to capitalization. It proposes configurative enumeration of the platform numbers as a way of conceptualizing these un-enacted excesses. In a configurative enumeration, the composition, the rhythms of imitation, variation and commutation, and constant relating, repairing and adjusting of configurations crucial to the ongoing formation of platforms come into view. Configurative enumerations engage the inventive realities of platformization, realities that precede and sometimes overflow their capitalization.
... Professors are rated by their students, their articles hierarchized by citation counts, their journals ranked by impact factors, and their disciplines scored by their relative sexiness (Felton et al 2008). Wines can be ranked by their Parker score (Chauvin 2016), your credit rating expressed by your FICO score (Poon 2007), and the impact of your online presence in the social media world measured by your Klout score (Gerlitz and Lury 2014). ...
Preprint
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Ratings and rankings are criticized for being simplistic, obscurantist, inaccurate, and subjective, yet they are becoming an increasingly influential social form. We elaborate the criticisms of ratings and rankings in various fields but go on to argue that analysis should shift its target. The problem that ratings deal with is not observation of an independent world. Instead, the challenge they face is the circularity of second-order observation in which observations must take into account the observations of others. To this purpose they function well enough not because they mirror how things are but because they offer a highly visible reference point to which others are attentive and thereby provide an orientation to navigate uncertainty. The concluding section places the problem of ratings and rankings in a broader historical perspective contrasting the ranked society to the society of rankings. Responding to uncertainty, ratings and rankings perpetuate rather than eliminate anxiety.
... Specifically, this practice derives from a form of hyper- reflexivity driven by the affordances of social media, which continuously make users aware of acting in front of an invisible audience (boyd 2011). Furthermore, these practices of self-categorization (and evaluation) of user- generated contents are also driven by the "behavior" of social media, which not only self-organizes its own communicative fluxes, but also constantly "invites" users to do the same through a complex array of likes, tags, hashtags, favorites, etc. ( Gerlitz and Lury 2014;Gershon 2011). ...
Article
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The aim of this article is to introduce some analytical concepts suitable for ethnographers dealing with social media environments. As a result of the growth of social media, the Internet structure has become a very complex, fluid, and fragmented space. Within this space, it is not always possible to consider the “classical” online community as the privileged field site for the ethnographer, in which s/he immerses him/herself. Differently, taking inspiration from some methodological principles of the Digital Methods paradigm, I suggest that the main task for the ethnographer moving across social media environments should not be exclusively that of identifying an online community to delve into but of mapping the practices through which Internet users and digital devices structure social formations around a focal object (e.g., a brand). In order to support the ethnographer in the mapping of social formations within social media environments, I propose five analytical concepts: community, public, crowd, self...
... Eu discuto o tipo de métricas que têm sido desenvolvidas ao longo dos últimos anos para argumentar que essas medidas, tal como as pontuações do Klout, quantificam nossos modos de engajamento com base em suposições específicas sobre o uso das mídias sociais (Beer, 2016;Gerlitz & Lury, 2014;Van Doorn, 2014). Para que servem as mídias sociais? ...
Chapter
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Este capítulo tem dois objetivos gerais: criticar as métricas contemporâneas das mídias sociais, sobretudo aquelas descritas como métricas de vaidade, e desenvolver um conjunto alternativo de métricas (análise crítica), que desloquem o foco da mensuração do self online e da vaidade em mídias sociais para a rede de questões problemáticas (issue networks) e para o engajamento. A justificativa para essa mudança de foco diz respeito ao fato de as mídias sociais não serem apenas espaços para a performance de si e para uma produtiva rede social de contatos (networking), mas um local para a mobilização de públicos em torno de questões e causas sociais.
... health hashtags (#fuckcancer)) (Bennett & Segerberg, 2012;Papacharissi, 2015); 3) users participating in mediated processes of decision-making about issues that they are not normally able to affect (e.g. regarding treatment, medicine or research projects) (Arnstein, 1969;Carpentier, 2011;Pateman, 1970); 4) users using media to adapt to biopolitical expectations of being a vital, happy and participatory citizen engaged in health issues (Mol, 2008;Stacey, 1997); 5) users contributing free, participatory and affective labour on platforms that promote their own ability to foster democracy and participation (Fuchs, 2014;McCosker, 2013;Terranova, 2000); 6) platforms' transformation of 'media usage' into 'valuable participation' through complex technological infrastructures that are themselves participative by enacting affective relations and extracting sellable knowledge through particular, and often hazy, procedures (Gerlitz, 2016;Gerlitz & Helmond, 2013;Gerlitz & Lury, 2014). ...
Article
THIS SPECIAL ISSUE, ENTITLED “HEALTH, MEDIA AND PARTICIPATION”, CONSISTS OF SEVEN ARTICLES THAT EXPLORE SOME OF THE DIFFERENT WAYS THAT MEDIA PARTICIPATION AND HEALTH PARTICIPATION INTERTWINE IN CONTEMPORARY MEDIA CULTURE. IN THESE SEVEN ARTICLES, PARTICIPATION IN HEALTH AND MEDIA IS ADDRESSED IN THE ANALYSIS OF A VARIETY OF PRACTICES: PATIENTS THAT USE MEDIA TO BECOME PARTICIPANTS IN CO-DECISION AND SELF-CARE PROCESSES, PATIENTS AND CITIZENS BEING MORE OR LESS ABLE TO USE MEDIA TO ENGAGE IN (PATIENT) COMMUNITIES, PATIENTS COMMUNICATING WITH (AND AFFECTING) INSTITUTIONS AND AUTHORITIES IN NEW MEDIATED WAYS, HEALTH PROFESSIONALS USING SOCIAL MEDIA TO CREATE PUBLIC AWARENESS ABOUT POLITICALLY URGENT ISSUES AND HEALTH PROFESSIONALS CO-DESIGNING DIGITAL LEARNING TECHNOLOGIES. ALL THE CONTRIBUTIONS ARE IN THIS WAY UNITED BY TAKING AN INTEREST IN THE DEMOCRATIC POTENTIALS AND DILEMMAS OF PARTICIPATING IN HEALTH THROUGH MEDIA PARTICIPATION. THE ISSUE ALSO INCLUDES ONE OPEN SECTION ARTICLE. THE SPECIAL ISSUE IS EDITED BY MAJA KLAUSEN, ANETTE GRØNNING AND CARSTEN STAGE.
... Ordinalisierung breitet sich im wirtschaftlichen, sozialen und politischen Leben immer weiter aus: Ratings und Rankings nehmen überall zu und dienen Institutionen dazu, die soziale und materielle Welt zu erfassen, zu verstehen und zu ordnen. Fortschritte bei der Erfassung und Verarbeitung von Informationen führen dazu, dass Individuen nicht mehr als ganze Personen oder als Angehörige einer sozialen Gruppe behandelt werden, sondern als Bündel unterscheidbarer persönlicher Merkmale (Gerlitz und Lury 2014), die je für sich analysiert, zusammengesetzt und verglichen werden können (Krippner 2017). ...
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Zusammenfassung Es gibt eine breite Literatur, die die Auseinandersetzungen untersucht, die in vielen institutionellen Kontexten über den Inhalt und Einsatz von Kategorien geführt werden. Demgegenüber argumentieren wir, dass nicht nur die Art der Kategorien umstritten ist, sondern auch die ihnen zugrundeliegenden Klassifikationsprinzipien. Im Anschluss an Fourcade (2016) identifizieren wir drei solcher Klassifikationsprinzipien: nominale Typologien, kardinale Zählungen und ordinale Rankings. Unsere These ist, dass die gegenwärtigen Gesellschaften durch eine Logik der Ordinalisierung gekennzeichnet sind. Ausdruck dieser Ordinalisierung sind die zunehmende Fluidität von Identitäten, die verbreitete Verwendung von Verfahren der Risikoeinschätzung und eine wachsende politische Polarisierung entlang einer einzigen Dimension, der links/rechts-Achse. Dieser Prozess verläuft jedoch ungleichförmig und ist auch umstritten. Die weiterhin bestehende Bedeutung nominal unterschiedener Gruppen („race“ ist dafür das herausragende Beispiel), der Widerstand, der sich gegen eine um sich greifende Kommensurierung formiert, und eine populistische „kardinale Revolte“, die numerische Mehrheiten zum alleinigen Maßstab für politische Legitimität erklärt, repräsentieren unterschiedliche und mehr oder weniger explizite Formen des Unbehagens an einer zunehmend ordinalisierten Moderne. Unser Zugang liefert einen theoretischen Rahmen, der es erlaubt, den gesellschaftlichen Wandel wie auch Unterschiede zwischen den Ländern in Termini der Klassen von Klassifikationen zu erfassen, die Gesellschaften in Bewegung setzen.
... Having explored how vanity metrics measure what could be termed 'distracted modes of engagement' , I would like to turn to a discussion of what they purport to measure. Indeed, behind the metrics are particular assumptions about social media use and the online performance they encourage (Gerlitz and Lury 2014;van Doorn 2014;Beer 2016). ...
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‘Vanity metrics,’ as they are critically termed (Ries 2009), measure the performative work one carries out on social media. Posting on social media and subsequently displaying and maintaining like, view and follow counts have been critiqued as both distracting modes of engagement as well as performance in a ‘success theater’. Each of these critiques is considered in turn in this chapter. The notion of vanity metrics implies another project, however: how one may consider reworking the metrics. In an undertaking called critical analytics, I propose an alternative metrics project akin to altmetrics in science but rather one designed for measuring actor activity around social issues and causes in social media. These measures for social research seek to highlight other modes of engagement (than distraction or vanity) in social media. The critical analytics put forward are a means to analyse dominant voice, concern, commitment, positioning, and alignment of actors using social media to work on social issues and causes. In all, critical analytics seek to contribute a conceptual and applied research agenda to orient the study of social media use and activity metrics.
... Having explored how vanity metrics measure what could be termed 'distracted modes of engagement' , I would like to turn to a discussion of what they purport to measure. Indeed, behind the metrics are particular assumptions about social media use and the online performance they encourage (Gerlitz and Lury 2014;van Doorn 2014;Beer 2016). ...
Chapter
As we witness a radical increase in the volume and variety of digital data, it should not come as a surprise that social sciences have become increasingly ‘datafied’. The traditional social sciences, such as sociology or anthropology, are thus under the threat of becoming marginalized or even irrelevant because of the prevalence of the new methods of research, which require more computational skills. This chapter describes a way for researchers to enter this new domain and keep their advantage of mastering qualitative research relevant: a new, mixed-method of Thick Big Data, relying on a combination of quantitative approaches (data scraping, Social Network Analysis, culturomics, sentiment analysis) with qualitative ones (digital ethnography, narrative analysis, cultural studies). The chapter outlines how these approaches may blend, and offers some practical advice for a researcher without coding skills on how to take the first steps in online research, through examples focused on Wikipedia.
... b) The relationship between the content and users, such as the measurement of engagement or the interest prompted by a tweet or a hashtag, with a view to quantitatively describing the effectiveness of a communication (Gerlitz and Lury, 2014). ...
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This article investigates the nature of the conversation around austerity on Twitter during the 2015 general election in the UK. Specifically, it explores the kinds of messages referring to austerity, as well as the kinds of accounts involved (whether they referred to a private or public role on Twitter and in society) and their affiliation to politically or non-politically oriented organizations/bodies. The search on Twitter concerning the austerity topic (for the 39-day time period from 3 March to 8 May 2015) resulted in 16,015 tweets, which generally referred to austerity, and 11,146 tweets, which contained at least one relevant hashtag. While austerity was rarely mentioned by mainstream media accounts in the Twittersphere, this topic was widely discussed during the election campaign by private users. This could be seen as a limitation of agenda setting, since there is no correlation between the agenda set by the media on Twitter and the public discussion about it. However, we found a relationship between the offline mainstream media agenda and the discussion led by private users on Twitter, thus confirming, to some extent, the validity of intra-agenda setting. In fact, offline media events (talk shows, news articles and question times) seemed to trigger peaks in tweet-based discussions or mentions about austerity, showing that the agenda set by the offline media influenced the discussion in the Twittersphere. Finally, we found that, while austerity has clear implications for citizens’ daily life, it seems to be more of an “elitist” topic, mainly addressed by those who are already politically oriented and well informed on the topic.
... "Social media" hold significant promise for controversy analysis for two main reasons: first, they signal a further mainstreaming and/or wider uptake of digital media technologies in and across social, professional, and public life (Gerlitz & Lury, 2014), thereby extending their empirical relevance as a setting for societal controversies. Second, they make available more richly structured data than Web data as such. ...
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This paper discusses the implementation of methods of controversy analysis in social media research, and proposes that if project is to be successful, we need to address the tension between social media as a resource for social inquiry and as an empirical object in its own right (Thielmann, 2012; see also Hilgartner, 2000). Controversy analysis is an approach developed in Social Studies of Science and Technology (STS) and related fields for examining disputes about science, technology and society (Latour, 1987; Nelkin 1971), and it has also been implemented digitally in order to study public debates and issues dynamics (Rogers & Marres, 2000, Venturini 2010). A key feature of controversy analysis as a digital social method, we argue, is that it enables a symmetrical approach to the study of media-technological dynamics and substantive dynamics of issue formastion. It allows us to pay attention to the ways in which a digital platform like Twitter mediates public issues, but also to how controversies mediate “social media”, as an object of public attention and infrastructure that participates in the organisation of issue engagement. To showcase this symmetrical approach, the paper will present a pilot study in Twitter analysis, in which we mapped issues of ‘privacy’ and ‘surveillance’ after the Snowden affair broke in the summer of 2013. We argue in favor of maintaining the instability of medium and controversy, but suggest that the digital implementation of controversy analysis requires further elaboration and productive dialogue between researchers of social media practices and researchers of public controversy.
... Dies wird seit den 1950er-Jahren -zunächst in den sich herausbildenden westlichen Konsumgesellschaften -an der Verbreitung von Hitparaden, Bestsellerlisten oder den Aufbereitungen von Umfrageergebnissen und Marktdaten aller Art in einer "publizistisch wirksamen" wie "populären Darstellung" (Schmidtchen 1959) immer deutlicher beobachtbar und ist seit der weltweiten Popularisierung des Internet und der fortgeschrittenen Digitalisierung um 2000 mit ihrer automatisierten Nutzungserfassung prägnanter, schneller und unausweichlicher denn je. Dabei handelt es sich um ubiquitäre Medienformate, die Popularität abbilden und beobachtbar machen, zugleich aber auch in Charts, Listen, Peritexten, Page-Ranks, Info-Grafiken und Social-Media-Likes inszenieren und so ihrerseits um Beachtung werben (Gerlitz 2013;Gerlitz 2014). Was so eigens als populär ausgewiesen wird -und dies gilt für alles, wenn es Beachtung findet und diese Beachtung gemessen, relationiert und popularisiert wird -, unterliegt unweigerlich einer Transformation und wird dann anders betrachtet: Denn es macht einen Unterschied, ob und wie ein Film, ein Roman, eine Oper, ein Konsumprodukt, eine Politikerin, eine Universität in den Charts, Rankings, Tabellen und Listen rangiert. ...
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Being popular means getting noticed by many. Popularity is measured as well as staged. Rankings and charts provide information on what is popular while vying for popularity themselves. They do not speak to the quality or originality of the popular, only to its evident success across different scales of evaluation. People do not buy good products, they buy popular ones; they do not listen to the best music, but to popular music; they do not share, like or retweet important, but popular news. Even the ‘unpopular’ can be popular: a despised politician, a hated jingle, an unpopular measure. The popular modifies whatever it affords with attention. Its quantitatively and hierarchically comparative terms (‘bestseller’, ‘outperformer’, ‘high score’, ‘viral’) generate valences that do not inhere in the objects themselves. Conversely, the non-popular, which does not find any measurable resonance in these terms, risks being dismissed as irrelevant or worthless simply because it does not appear in any rankings or ratings. This can also be observed particularly with artefacts whose relevance as part of high culture could be taken for granted even when they do not achieve mass resonance. Our paper proposes the following central hypothesis: The transformations of the popular, which began in Europe around 1800 and introduced the powerful distinction between low culture and high culture, establish a competitive distinction between the popular and the non-popular becoming dominant over the course of the 20th century. As a result, the popular is no longer either culture of the ‘lower classes’ or the inclusion of the ‘people’ in the service of higher goals. The popular today is hardly the object of desired transgressions (Leslie Fiedler’s “cross the border, close the gap”) or an expression of felt or feared “massification” or “flattening”. The dissemination of the popular is no longer a normative project. It has, in fact, become an inescapable condition of cultural self-understanding in the globalised present. The purpose of our research is to devise a theory of the popular that does justice to this fact. Our research outline identifies two decisive transformations that have led to this condition: 1. the popularization of quantifying methods to measure attention in popular culture around 1950; 2. the popularization of the Internet around 2000, whereby the question of what can and cannot become popular is partially removed from the gatekeepers of the established mass media, educational institutions and cultural elites and is increasingly decided via social media.
... Before reaggregating platform data into new second order metrics, it is important to understand what is being counted in the first places, as 100k tweets have a different value in research if issued from political protesters, cross-syndicated from Instagram or issued by spam-bot networks. The fact that numbers are easy to be displaced, circulated and reaggregated has led to their constant re-evaluation by a multiplicity of actors, reassembling them for intelligence, indicators for engagement, issue detectors or influence rankings (Gerlitz & Lury 2014), to name only a few. Once reassembled into new second order metrics, the question of what the original data points are composed of descends into the background. ...
Article
Digital interfaces, in the form of websites, mobile apps and other platforms, now mediate user experiences with a variety of economic, cultural and political services and products. To study these digital mediations, researchers have to date followed a range of methodological strategies including the modification of pre-existing qualitative research methods, such as content analysis, discourse analysis and semiotics, among many others, and an experimentation with new methods designed to make visible the operation of data aggregation, analytics and algorithms that are hidden from users. Building upon, while distinct from these strategies, the article sets out a post-phenomenological approach to studying interfaces, websites and apps that explicitly interrogates how they appear as objects. In doing so, the article provides a response to a problem that animates contemporary cultural geography: that new cultural objects are emerging which place in question the habits and practices of analysis that composed the ‘new’ cultural geography. To do this, the paper develops the concepts of unit, vibration and tone to unpack interfaces as sets of entities that work together to shape the experiences and responses of users. As such, the article provides a methodological vocabulary for the analysis of how interfaces operate to modulate user response and action on a series of habitual and un-reflected upon levels and thereby to create outcomes that suit their owners and operators.
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Vanity metrics is a term that captures the measurement and display of how well one is doing in the "success theater" of social media. The notion of vanity metrics implies a critique of metrics concerning both the object of measurement as well as their capacity to measure unobtrusively or only to encourage performance. While discussing that critique, this article focuses on how one may consider reworking the metrics. In a research project I call critical analytics, the proposal is to repurpose alt metrics scores and other engagement measures for social research and measure the "otherwise engaged" or other modes of engagement (than vanity) in social media, such as dominant voice, concern, commitment, positioning, and alignment. It thereby furnishes digital methods-or the repurposing of platform data and methods for social research-with a conceptual and applied research agenda concerning social media metrics.
Chapter
The chapter develops the key point in Chap. 2 by arguing that the new entrepreneurial forms of illness communication are challenging the well-known “sick role” described by Talcott Parsons in favour of more activist and participatory illness voices. It, however, moves the focus from blogs to social network sites, primarily Facebook. The chapter more specifically makes a case study of the English (micro)blogger Stephen Sutton, and discusses his way of handling life-threatening cancer, which resulted in the crowdfunding of almost five million GBP for the Teenage Cancer Trust. The chapter investigates various ways of explaining and analysing the crowdfunding success and virality of the Sutton-case (Nahon and Hemsley 2013) andthe performative role of measurement and numbers in this process of ‘going viral’. Nikolas Rose’s concept of “biological citizenship” is introduced to establish an analytical framework capable of grasping the rising tendency to intertwine intimate pathographies with social, economic or political projects. This concept is chosen because it allows us to reflect on the maintenance of vitality, happiness and hope as key components of a contemporary biopolitics that affects and transforms current illness practices, but also on the quite contradictory reactions to Sutton’s project, that can be detected in the material.
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The paper begins by reflecting on centrifugal and centripetal forces driving attempts to (re)define the scope, techniques and focus of netnographic research. The former is evident in the emergence of new and more imaginative forms and applications; the latter in attempts to formalise it as process and practical method. The paper subsequently considers how developments in technological innovation, human-technology relations and research norms feed into contrasting ways of defining and deploying netnography. The discussion explores new opportunities for researching digital cultures through adopting different netnographic sensibilities. However, it also questions whether evolving forms of netnography undermine any coherent notion of it as distinct research practice, and evaluates the strategies researchers may adopt to legitimise new arrangements and applications of it.
Article
The rapid expansion of social media has led to the concentration of digitized, networked, and mediated processes into the hands of a few giant corporations (e.g. Google, Facebook, and Amazon), their partners and affiliates. From smart watches to targeted advertising and reputation scores, this new political economy of subjectivation – or subject making – sees an intensification of datafication to sell commodities, manipulate moods, inject ideologies, and influence behaviors. This article argues that in order to understand this new political economy of subjectivation, we need to complicate and build upon framework that focus on the collection of personal data and its risks on individual users. We argue that as social media and digital media giant corporations move away from an enclosed platform model toward a distributed, impersonal infrastructure, the mining of individual data and the shaping of individual attitudes is increasingly geared toward establishing relationships between user data and a plethora of non-human, environmental data. Such an infrastructure invokes impersonal subjects, and thus requires a new politics of relationality.
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In this chapter, we interrogate the role of metrics in the design of Stories as specific features on platforms, by focusing on the hugely popular Snapchat and Instagram Stories. We show that the values underpinning the design of Stories, the affordances offered and key communicative practices in influencers’ stories are revealing of three directives (cf. preferential conditions, prompts) to users for what kinds of stories will be told, how audiences will engage with them and how tellers will present themselves and their lives in them. These are sharing-life-in-the-moment, audience engagement as quantified viewing and authenticity in tellers’ self-presentation.
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The metaphor that ‘data is the new oil’ points to the perception of data as a valuable resource in the form of raw material for algorithmic processing at the centre of data capitalism and its underlying process of datafication. While many point to broader consequences of datafication for social life there is still a need for analytical models to understand the complexity, scale, and dynamics behind these transformations. To focus on data as value is one such approach that is pursued in this chapter. The point of departure is Dewey’s Theory of Valuation (1939), which is discussed in relation to anthropological, sociological, and economic theories of value. The second section presents an analytical model for the study of the dynamics of data capitalism and the process of datafication. This is then illustrated with two examples that highlight the relations between the inner dynamics of data capitalism before the chapter ends with some conclusive recommendations for future empirical research.
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This is a chapter for a book scheduled to be published in October 2022, in honour of Raymond Gibbs, Jr. Most of the chapters will pertain to metaphor theory, but Ray has always also been interested in relevance theory In our chapter we thus pay tribute to his ventures into this direction.
Article
The expansion of social citizenship in the 20th century mitigated the brute effects of economic inequality in people's lives. The new rights also created new social divisions, however, separating citizens according to their ability to do well through them. In the 21st century the conceptual matrix of citizenship has developed further, powered by new technologies that have promised new freedoms and opportunities in every aspect of people's lives. As the scope of economic and social incorporation has broadened, the possibilities for classifying, sorting, slotting, and scaling people have also grown and diversified. Echoing the earlier rise of the meritocracy, this new matrix produces its own winners and losers, partly recycling old inequalities, and partly creating new ones. Demands for self‐care and individual fitness pile up, eroding the universal and solidaristic basis upon which the expansion of citizenship historically thrived. In its place stands what I call “ordinal citizenship,” a form of social inclusion that thrives on social measurement, differentiation, and hierarchy.
Article
Due to their perceived role in making content visible, engagement metrics are core concerns for people and businesses that generate revenue on social media platforms. While scholars have focused on the ways that social media users manipulate their own visibility, we investigate not only how social media users’ understandings of metrics shape the content they produce but also how this content influences the communication of users who interact with it. Based on a logistic regression analysis of 985 Facebook posts made to a group that distributes information about free products, we find that tactics commonly thought to increase engagement metrics also increased the probability that users would reveal personal information, identities and experiences, including detailed descriptions of debt, unemployment and homelessness. We argue that the information systems, compensation structures, and cultural norms currently surrounding online communication award visibility to those who make others visible in ways that potentially increase vulnerability.
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Quantification is particularly seductive in times of global uncertainty. Not surprisingly, numbers, indicators, categorizations, and comparisons are central to governmental and popular response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This essay draws insights from critical data studies, sociology of quantification and decolonial thinking, with occasional excursion into the biomedical domain, to investigate the role and social consequences of counting broadly defined as a way of knowing about the virus. It takes a critical look at two domains of human activity that play a central role in the fight against the virus outbreak, namely medical sciences and technological innovation. It analyzes their efforts to craft solutions for their user base and explores the unwanted social costs of these operations. The essay argues that the over-reliance of biomedical research on “whiteness” for lab testing and the techno-solutionism of the consumer infrastructure devised to curb the social costs of the pandemic are rooted in a distorted idea of a “standard human” based on a partial and exclusive vision of society and its components, which tends to overlook alterity and inequality. It contends that to design our way out of the pandemic, we ought to make space for distinct ways of being and knowing, acknowledging plurality and thinking in terms of social relations, alterity, and interdependence.
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Storytelling on social media platforms is intertwined with a ubiquity of numbers, metrics and rankings. In this book, we set out to explore this connection of stories with quantification and its consequences for what stories can be posted, distributed and become available and how. Because of the interdisciplinary nature of our questions and interests, we begin by situating our approach in relation to two largely distinct bodies of work: ‘social media metricization and quantification’ (Sect. 1.2) and ‘stories on social media’ (Sect. 1.3). Section 1.2 looks into studies within media studies and sociology of metricization, quantification and social media platforms. Section 1.3 engages with work within narrative studies on the contextual aspects of storytelling and its links with tellers’ identities. We also review studies of stories on social media. Drawing on these two strands of work, we then outline the basic assumptions underlining our approach to quantified storytelling on social media (Sect. 1.4).
Article
Recognizing that many of the modern categories with which we think about people and their activities were put in place through the use of numbers, we ask how numbering practices compose contemporary sociality. Focusing on particular forms of algorithmic personalization, we describe a pathway of a-typical individuation in which repeated and recursive tracking is used to create partial orders in which individuals are always more and less than one. Algorithmic personalization describes a mode of numbering that involves forms of de- and re- aggregating, in which a variety of contexts are continually included and excluded. This pathway of a-typical individuation is important, we suggest, to a variety of domains and, more broadly, to an understanding of contemporary economies of sharing where the politics of collectivities, ownership and use are being reconfigured as a default social.
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Fat. The word has a negative, vitriolic meaning, but there are body positivity activists trying to reclaim the word as a descriptor rather than derogatory term. People in larger bodies are often ostracized, not allowed to fully participate in society, making this a social justice issue. Social media are becoming primary tools people use to shape and change discourse that frames fat bodies as lesser members of society or a problem to be controlled (think the “obesity epidemic”). This conceptual article details how social media platforms can be used to change the dominant narrative, pushing the scholarship beyond realizing that social media are being used for this change-related purpose. Using Sementelli’s map of the individual, I highlight some Instagram accounts promoting either the dominant weight loss narrative or a body positive one, showing how people can use their power (or reclaim it) to shape discourse related to social justice and body positivity.
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The first comprehensive analysis of the emergence of academic brands, this book explores how the modern university is being transformed in an increasingly global economy of higher education where luxury is replacing access. More than just a sign of corporatization and privatization, academic brands provide a unique window on the university's concerns and struggles with conveying 'excellence' and reputation in a competitive landscape organized by rankings, while also capitalizing on its brand to generate revenue when state support dwindles. This multidisciplinary volume addresses topics including the uniqueness of academic brands, their role in the global brand economy of distinction, and their vulnerability to problematic social and political associations. By focusing on brands, the volume analyzes the tensions between the university's traditional commitment to public interest values – education, research, and the production of knowledge – and its increasingly managerial culture framed by corporate, private values. Available as Open Access on Cambridge Core.
Article
Data aggregations are an under-acknowledged site of social relations. The social and technical specifics of how data aggregate are arenas for rich debates about how knowledge ought to be produced, and who should produce it. Consumer goods such as fitness trackers create conditions where data scientists or professional researchers are no longer the only ones making decisions about how to aggregate data. Users of these products also rework their data to discover something medically significant to them. These practices call attention to a modality of ‘scaling up’ datasets about a single person that is different from, and until recently largely invisible to, clinical approaches to big data, which privilege the creation of a ‘bird’s eye’ view across as many people. Both technical questions how to build these aggregations, and social questions of who should be involved, betray broader epistemological issues about how new knowledge is created from electronic devices.
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This article explores the interplay between various forms of self-measurement and affective processes in three female cancer patients’ storytelling on Instagram. It argues that self-measurement should be approached as an epistemic, relational, biopolitical and affective practice of valuation, which simultaneously produces knowledge about the self, enacts social and technological relations, reproduces bodily discourses and motivates affective modulation. In the three Instagram profiles studied, self-measurement appears to work according to two different logics: a logic of self-tracking that quantifies stages towards restitution and a logic of self-experimentation that ‘visibilizes’ bodily surface changes during illness. In terms of affect, self-tracking is primarily aimed at establishing a sense of hope – supported by encounters with followers and their displays of love and empathy – but it is also linked to frustration and fear when the goal of measurement is postponed or unreachable. Self-experimentation, on the other hand, takes part in processes that affectively relate to the aesthetically changing ill body – a mode of measurement that is less focused on temporal progression and more focused on exploring the vulnerable aliveness and changeability of the body during cancer by focusing on relations between present and past. Finally, the article discusses to what extent these two logics resonate with wider cultural and biopolitical transformations in which publicly visible and intensely circulated patient practices are increasingly those that are able to master and affectively ‘grid’ the destructiveness of illness while telling and sharing a story about it. In Distinktion: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/1600910X.2019.1580594
Thesis
Much of the Information Systems (IS) literature on Big Data Analytics (BDA) assumes a straightforward relationship between human activity and data, and between data and analytical insights that can be used to steer operations (e.g. Chen, Preston and Swink, 2015; Brynjolfsson, Geva and Reichman, 2016; Yahav, Shmueli and Mani, 2016). On the other hand, researchers also try to understand the role of big data within organisations, the contributions of analytics to strategy and decision-making, and the value of big data and its organisational consequences (Constantiou and Kallinikos, 2015; Abbasi, Sarker and Chiang, 2016; Günther et al., 2017). At the same time, more critical scholars have suggested that the implications of BDA can go beyond decision-making, sometimes twisting or even undermining managerial efforts (Newell and Marabelli, 2015; Galliers et al., 2017; Markus, 2017). This research investigates how BDA systems change organisations that implement them and aims to uncover the resulting organisational transformations. In line with the Transformational Model of Social Activity (Archer and Bhaskar, 1998; Faulkner and Runde, 2013), it is argued that BDA systems as technological objects change how work is done, and these changes lead to the reproduction or transformation of organisations as social structures. In order to uncover this reproduction or transformation, the concepts of encoding, aggregation and correlation (Alaimo and Kallinikos, 2017) are deployed to analyse how data is produced, and the theory of reactivity (Espeland and Sauder, 2007), originally developed to study university rankings, is adapted to trace the mechanisms and effects of organisational transformation in a case study. The study provides an answer to the question of how organisations are transformed, in unintended ways, through the implementation of BDA systems. The concept of the analytical cage is proposed as a new form of organising emerging from BDA within organisations.
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Taking number as material and semiotic, this article considers the enumeration of Australia’s water resources as both a form of audit and a form of marketing. It proposes that a scientific enumeration utilizes the relation one/many while an economic enumeration utilizes the relation whole/parts. Working the tension between these two forms of enumeration can be understood as an inventive frontier in contemporary Australian life.
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Numerical ordinal rankings (or ratings) are proliferating in the current social and economic world. Many are used to derive and justify relative monetary valuation, by modes of equation and calculation. The article shows how these composite manipulations of order and value tend to produce a parabolic curve: very few at very high value at the top, descending in a curve to very many of very low value at the bottom. The article illustrates the form of this ordinal curve and assesses the metaphors that evoke its persuasiveness. The Great Chain of Being is explored as a source of terminology.
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Recently, there has been a proliferation of measures responding to demands for accountability and transparency. Using the example of media rankings of law schools, this article argues that the methodological concept of reactivity-the idea that people change their behavior in reaction to being evaluated, observed, or measured-offers a useful lens for disclosing how these measures effect change. A framework is proposed for investigating the consequences, both intended and unintended, of public measures. The article first identifies two mechanisms, self-fulfilling prophecy and commensuration, that induce reactivity and then distinguishes patterns of effects produced by reactivity. This approach demonstrates how these increasingly fateful public measures change expectations and permeate institutions, suggesting why it is important for scholars to investigate the impact of these measures more systematically.
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This paper seeks to contribute to the development of device-centred perspectives on public participation through an analysis of everyday technologies of carbon accounting. Such instruments are currently put forward, in the UK and elsewhere, as a way of locating environmental engagement in everyday practices, such as cooking and heating. The paper considers whether and how these technologies can be said to 'materialize' public participation. It argues that the materialization of engagement entails a particular codification of it: as participation is located in everyday material practice, it comes to be defined in terms of its doability and the investment of effort. Material participation, then, does not refer just to its mediation by things: it involves the deployment of specific legitimatory tropes associated with liberal theories of citizenship and the domestication of technology, in particular the notion that the engagement of everyday subjects requires things to be 'made easy' (Pateman, 1989; Schwartz Cowan, 1983). To make sense of this confluence of political and technological ideals, the paper takes up the notion of 'co-articulation' (Callon, 2009). A distinctive feature of the everyday devices of accounting under consideration here, I argue, is their ability to 'co-articulate' participation with other registers: those of innovation and economy. In this respect, the spaces of participation organized with the aid of these technologies can be qualified as spaces of 'multi-valent' action. Different carbon-accounting devices do this, however, in different ways, and this has consequences for how we understand the wider normative implications of the 'materialization' of environmental participation. In some cases, materialization entails the minimization of social, material and political changes, while in others it enables the exploration and amplification of precisely these modes of change.
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