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2017 #SMSociety Theme: Social Media for Social Good or Evil

Our online behaviour is far from virtual–it extends our offline lives. Much social media research has identified the positive opportunities of using social media; for example, how people use social media to form support groups online, participate in political uprising, raise money for charities, extend teaching and learning outside the classroom, etc. However, mirroring offline experiences, we have also seen social media being used to spread propaganda and misinformation, recruit terrorists, live stream criminal activities, reinforce echo chambers by politicians, and perpetuate hate and oppression (such as racist, sexist, homophobic, and anti-Semitic behaviour).

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Sunday, July 30 • 11:01 - 12:30
The Political Economy Of Social Data. A Historical Analysis Of Platform–Industry Partnerships [WIP]

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Authors: Anne Helmond, David Nieborg and Fernando van der Vlist

Abstract: Social media industry partnerships are essential to understand the politics and economics of social data flowing between platforms and third-parties. We investigate how platform partnerships evolve over time to understand (i) the dynamic roles of platforms and partners as data brokers, (ii) their diversification by catering to a growing number of stakeholders, all with distinct interests, and (iii) their gradual entrenchment as dominant actors within the internet industry. We focus on Facebook the dominant platform that functions both as data aggregator and marketing platform that operates multiple dedicated partner programs and that cater to a wide array of industry partners. We employ a mixed methods approach. On the one hand, “digital methods” for mapping partnerships over time using archived pages of Facebook’s official partner program directories, as well as developer documentation from the Internet Archive to enquire into changing partnership types. On the other hand, we conducted semi-structured interviews with selected partners to contextualize their distinct roles, positions, and data strategies within the industry. By considering how partnership alliances are forged and subsequently dissolved over time, we offer insights into “stakeholder politics” as well as platforms’ entrenchment within the Internet industry. In brief, we aim to develop a critical account of the political economy of social data by addressing the infrastructural dimension of platform data power.

Sunday July 30, 2017 11:01 - 12:30 EDT
TRS 1-147 - 7th Flr Ted Rogers School of Management, Ryerson University 55 Dundas Street West, Toronto, ON M5G 2C9