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Capital Experimentation With Person/a Formation: How Facebook's Monetization Refigures The Relationship Between Property, Personhood And Protest

Bev Skeggs, S. Yuill
Published 2016 · Sociology

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ABSTRACT This article examines the conditions of possibility for protest that are shaped when we open our browsers and are immediately tracked by Facebook. It points to the significance of tracking in the making of contemporary personhood showing how the relationship between property and personhood is being currently reconfigured as Facebook experiments with ways to accrue maximum profit. It outlines in detail the different ways by which Facebook operates financially, arguing that it is better understood as a powerful advertising oligopoly that lubricates the circulation of capital rather than just as a social network. By charting the movement from the liberal ‘possessive individual’, to the neo-liberal ‘subject of value' into the present disaggregated ‘dividual', it reveals inherent contradictions as Facebook builds its financializing and monetizing capacity. We show how the contemporary neo-liberal imperative to perform and authorize one's value in public is more likely to produce a curated persona rather than the ‘authentic’ self-demanded by Facebook, making accurate dividuation more difficult to achieve. We draw on our research project funded by Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), UK, on the relationship between values and value, which uses custom-built software to track Facebook's tracking. Our research revealed how Facebook drew clear distinctions between high net worth users and the remainder, making the protesting bourgeois ‘subject of value’ much more likely to be subject to expropriation. We ask: what does it mean if the communicative networks for protest are just another opportunity for profit making and lubricating financialization?
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