The Valorization of Surveillance: Towards a Political Economy of Facebook

Nicole S. Cohen

Abstract


Much excitement surrounds Facebook, the social networking site based on user-generated content that has attracted 64 million active users since its inception in 2004. This paper begins to outline a political economy of Facebook in an attempt to draw attention to the underlying economic relations that structure the website, and the way in which the site fits into larger patterns of contemporary capitalist development. Although Web 2.0 has presented a shift away from “old” top-down media models, there remains continuity through change: Facebook continues familiar models of extensive commodification, with surveillance playing a key role in this process. The emerging reliance on general intellect and free labour for the purpose of capital accumulation does represent a move away from a more passive conception of the audience commodity, yet it demonstrates the continuous march of capitalism into cyberspace under post-Fordist conditions.

 


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