University of Western Ontario - Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Degree

Master of Arts

Program

Media Studies

Supervisor

Dr. Samuel E. Trosow

Abstract

This study explores the nascent political economy of the online social network industry. Exemplars of online social networking, Facebook and Twitter have often been understood as revolutionary New Media tools. My findings show that these social networks are taking on a logic of capitalist production and accumulation, calling into question their revolutionary character. Evidence suggests that user-generated content are now being commodified and exchanged for profit.

A critical discourse analysis of Facebook and Twitter’s privacy policy and terms-of-use reveals that these texts primarily function as work contracts rather than treatises on privacy protection. Drawing on the work of Karl Marx, this study revisits his theory of value and develops an expanded form of variable capital model to demonstrate how social networkers fit into this new capitalist circuit of accumulation. This extension of the working day is problematic. Policy recommendations are offered in order to negate the commodification of user data.

Included in

Communication Commons

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