We conceive social media platforms as sociotechnical entities that variously shape user platform involvement and participation. Such shaping develops along three fundamental data operations that we subsume under the terms of encoding, aggregation, and computation. Encoding entails the engineering of user platform participation along narrow and standardized activity types (e.g., tagging, liking, sharing, following). This heavily scripted platform participation serves as the basis for the procurement of discrete and calculable data tokens that are possible to aggregate and, subsequently, compute in a variety of ways. We expose these operations by investigating a social media platform for shopping. We contribute to the current debate on social media and digital platforms by describing social media as posttransactional spaces that are predominantly concerned with charting and profiling the online predispositions, habits, and opinions of their user base. Such an orientation sets social media platforms apart from other forms of mediating online interaction. In social media, we claim, platform participation is driven toward an endless online conversation that delivers the data footprint through which a computed sociality is made the source of value creation and monetization.
Social data is the computable data footprint of user participation in social media. It is produced through the far-reaching standardization of social interaction that allows users to perform daily and en masse hyper-stylized activities such as ?tagging?, ?following? or ?liking?. The data thus produced are piled up and processed. The outputs of these operations (e.g. similarity, popularity or trending scores) are carried back to users in the form of personalized suggestions, embedded into platform functioning and shared with third parties through APIs and other boundary spanning technologies, reinforcing the process through which social interaction is made the engine of social data production. These conditions set social data apart from data generated through automated technologies of data tracking and recording, and outline the distinct nature of the contribution it makes to the developments associated with big data.
Alaimo Cristina, Kallinikos Jannis (2019) Recommender Systems, In: Beyes T., Holt R., Pias C. (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Media, Technology and Organization Studies
Oxford University Press (OUP)
Personalization increasingly mediates the experience of users on the Web. Online platforms and organizations use personalization services to retain users, achieve longer user or customer engagement and, ultimately, higher profits. Cast in this light, personalization is a ubiquitous modality by means of which organizations seek to structure interaction with their users. Amazon, for instance, mediates the buying experience of its customers through computational systems that advance recommendations concerning relevant products to buy upon nearly every transaction. Similarly, Spotify uses the listening habits of its users to recommend tunes which they may find relevant to listen. In a rather different context, Facebook modulates its news feed to the interests of individual users by mapping each user?s ongoing interaction with his/her network of other users, and Google famously personalizes its search engine results, gathering, in turn, relevant information on the search habits of users.
Alaimo Cristina, Kallinikos Jannis (2018) Objects, Metrics and Practices: An Inquiry into the Programmatic Advertising Ecosystem, In: Schultze U, Aanestad M, Mähring M, Østerlund C, Riemer K (eds.), Living with Monsters? Social Implications of Algorithmic Phenomena, Hybrid Agency, and the Performativity of Technology. IS&O 2018. IFIP Advances in Information and Communication Technology 543 (543) pp. 110-123
Programmatic advertising is a large scale, real-time bidding process, whereby ads are automatically assigned to available spaces across types of media and geographic regions upon an individual user?s browser request. The large-scale automation of programmatic advertising requires the establishment of standards and the development of technologies to govern the behavior of market participants (sellers, buyers, intermediaries). We present evidence on the rules of programmatic exchange and on the role played by a specific class of digital objects. We focus in particular on the metrics to which these objects are linked and how they define what is exchanged and the parameters of these exchanges. We furthermore demonstrate that the metrics and the technological complexes associated with them are constituted by the institutional field of digital advertising and its complex technological infrastructure. Rather than being simply means to monitor a pre-existing reality ?out there? (such as user or audience behavior) these metrics and techniques bring forward their own reality and heavily impact upon and shape the objects and processes of digital advertising.
Social media stage online patterns of social interaction that differ remarkably
from ordinary forms of acting, talking and relating. To unravel these differences,
we review the literature on micro-sociology and social psychology and derive a
shorthand version of socially-embedded forms of interaction. We use that version
as a yardstick for reconstructing and assessing the patterns of sociality social
media promote. Our analysis shows that social media platforms stage highly
stylized forms of social interaction such as liking, following, tagging, etc. that
essentially serve the purpose of generating a calculable and machine-readable
data footprint out of user platform participation. This online stylization of social
interaction and the data it procures are, however, only the first steps of what we
call the infrastructuring of social media. Social media use the data footprint
that results from the stylization of social interaction to derive larger (and
commercially relevant) social entities such as audiences, networks and groups
that are constantly fed back to individuals and groups of users as personalized
recommendations of one form or another. Social media infrastructure sociality
as they provide the backstage operations and technological facilities out of
which new habits and modes of social relatedness emerge and diffuse across the
The growing business expansion of social media platforms is changing their identity and transforming the practices of networking, data and content sharing with which social media have been commonly associated. We empirically investigate these shifts in the context of TripAdvisor and its evolution since its very establishment. We trace the mutations of the platform along three stages we identify as search engine, social media platform and end-to-end service ecosystem. Our findings reveal the underlying patterns of data types, technological functionalities and actor configurations that punctuate the business expansion of TripAdvisor and lead to the formation of its service ecosystem. We contribute to the understanding of the current trajectory in which social media find themselves as well as to the literature on platforms and ecosystems. We point out the importance of services that develop as commercially viable and constantly updatable data bundles out of diverse and dynamic data types. Such services are essential to the making of the complementarities that are claimed to underlie ecosystem formation.