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From participatory culture to prosumer capitalism: imaginaries of transparency in the age of corporate surveillance

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Abstract
In the complex ecosystem where community and technology intersect, social media data is playing a key role in the transition of social media platforms from a logic of sociability to one of commerce. Implicit in this transition are the issues of surveillance and transparency, as what started out as collective, user-centred social media platforms have become profit-driven organisations required to create commercial returns for investors. This contribution investigates the political economy of social media data, looking at how social media platforms are making this shift with new methods of surveillance to monetise user-generated-content and the personal information of users. With platforms such as Google (since 2004), Facebook (since 2012) and Twitter (since 2013) listed on the stock market, they are confronted with the continuous challenge of expanding their user base while also proving they can offer value for advertisers and other third parties. In trying to appeal to both users and investors, what is at stake is transparency, as users and other stakeholders are not made aware of what information exactly is being monetised and how surveillance techniques function in. This potentially undermines a transparent, effective, and trust-inducing interdependent relationship that underlies social media practices. This contribution seeks to document and compare how the popular social media platforms Google, Facebook and Twitter present themselves to the world in the light of ‘corporate surveillance’. By systematically analysing their S-1 forms we will uncover what information is disclosed about user surveillance, and how this is presented to users as well as to potential investors. Employing critical document analysis we investigate how and to what extent these platforms are transparent about their strategies of monitoring, mining and aggregating user data. Theoretically, this contribution seeks to unpack how we have moved from participatory culture to a form of ‘prosumer capitalism’. The first concept celebrates user expression and civic engagement in which prosumers are actively engaging in the production and distribution of content, thus feeling (socially) connected to others. The latter notion points at how the active role of users has resulted in a new form of capitalism, i.e. prosumer capitalism. In the social media era this means that the driving force behind the content shared on these platforms is not corporations such as Google, Facebook or Twitter, but is instead the users themselves. The relevant question then is whether corporate information informs users about their role in value creation, not only the prosumption of content but also the social monitoring techniques that are built into these platforms.
Keywords
Social media, transparency, platforms, corporate surveillance

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Chicago
Verdegem, Pieter, and Shenja van der Graaf. 2014. “From Participatory Culture to Prosumer Capitalism: Imaginaries of Transparency in the Age of Corporate Surveillance.” In Social Media and the Transformation of Public Space, Abstracts, ed. José van Dijck and Thomas Poell, 100–101. Amsterdam, The Netherlands: University of Amsterdam.
APA
Verdegem, P., & van der Graaf, S. (2014). From participatory culture to prosumer capitalism: imaginaries of transparency in the age of corporate surveillance. In J. van Dijck & T. Poell (Eds.), Social Media and the Transformation of Public Space, Abstracts (pp. 100–101). Presented at the Social Media and the Transformation of Public Space, Amsterdam, The Netherlands: University of Amsterdam.
Vancouver
1.
Verdegem P, van der Graaf S. From participatory culture to prosumer capitalism: imaginaries of transparency in the age of corporate surveillance. In: van Dijck J, Poell T, editors. Social Media and the Transformation of Public Space, Abstracts. Amsterdam, The Netherlands: University of Amsterdam; 2014. p. 100–1.
MLA
Verdegem, Pieter, and Shenja van der Graaf. “From Participatory Culture to Prosumer Capitalism: Imaginaries of Transparency in the Age of Corporate Surveillance.” Social Media and the Transformation of Public Space, Abstracts. Ed. José van Dijck & Thomas Poell. Amsterdam, The Netherlands: University of Amsterdam, 2014. 100–101. Print.
@inproceedings{4426644,
  abstract     = {In the complex ecosystem where community and technology intersect, social media data is playing a key role in the transition of social media platforms from a logic of sociability to one of commerce. Implicit in this transition are the issues of surveillance and transparency, as what started out as collective, user-centred social media platforms have become profit-driven organisations required to create commercial returns for investors. This contribution investigates the political economy of social media data, looking at how social media platforms are making this shift with new methods of surveillance to monetise user-generated-content and the personal information of users. With platforms such as Google (since 2004), Facebook (since 2012) and Twitter (since 2013) listed on the stock market, they are confronted with the continuous challenge of expanding their user base while also proving they can offer value for advertisers and other third parties. In trying to appeal to both users and investors, what is at stake is transparency, as users and other stakeholders are not made aware of what information exactly is being monetised and how surveillance techniques function in. This potentially undermines a transparent, effective, and trust-inducing interdependent relationship that underlies social media practices. This contribution seeks to document and compare how the popular social media platforms Google, Facebook and Twitter present themselves to the world in the light of ‘corporate surveillance’. By systematically analysing their S-1 forms we will uncover what information is disclosed about user surveillance, and how this is presented to users as well as to potential investors. Employing critical document analysis we investigate how and to what extent these platforms are transparent about their strategies of monitoring, mining and aggregating user data. Theoretically, this contribution seeks to unpack how we have moved from participatory culture to a form of ‘prosumer capitalism’. The first concept celebrates user expression and civic engagement in which prosumers are actively engaging in the production and distribution of content, thus feeling (socially) connected to others. The latter notion points at how the active role of users has resulted in a new form of capitalism, i.e. prosumer capitalism. In the social media era this means that the driving force behind the content shared on these platforms is not corporations such as Google, Facebook or Twitter, but is instead the users themselves. The relevant question then is whether corporate information informs users about their role in value creation, not only the prosumption of content but also the social monitoring techniques that are built into these platforms.},
  author       = {Verdegem, Pieter and van der Graaf, Shenja},
  booktitle    = {Social Media and the Transformation of Public Space, Abstracts},
  editor       = {van Dijck, José and Poell, Thomas},
  keywords     = {Social media,transparency,platforms,corporate surveillance},
  language     = {eng},
  location     = {Amsterdam, The Netherlands},
  pages        = {100--101},
  publisher    = {University of Amsterdam},
  title        = {From participatory culture to prosumer capitalism: imaginaries of transparency in the age of corporate surveillance},
  year         = {2014},
}