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  • Online Social Capital as Capital

    Kane X. Faucher

    Chapter from the book: Faucher, K. 2018. Social Capital Online: Alienation and Accumulation.


    Tracking online social capital in its more distinctly economic, particularly capitalist aspects the issue of the ‘fungibility’ or exchange value of ‘likes’ and other social media metrics is explored. The pursuit of online social capital through illicit means, such as relying on click-farms, is discussed with a view to demonstrating that there is a very real human labour cost to the purchase of these services that is founded on exploitation. An analogy is drawn to Nikolai Gogol’s novel Dead Souls to indicate how such artificial increases in a resource are seen and leveraged for gains elsewhere. Appealing to Marxist analysis, the use value of social interaction becomes subordinate to the economic relation as expressed by the quantification processes of visible social metrics. The chapter explores the three-fold processes of commodifying social interaction as a form of exchange value via the commodification of user data, user generated content, and the reliance on abstracted social labour. The use of social buttons to track and display the results of these online interactions assists the algorithms of social media companies to further exploit its user base for the purposes of better refining algorithms for targeted marketing. The chapter also addresses the rise of social media influencers (SMIs) and micro-celebrities who deliberately seek to commodify their social connections and interactions for profitable gain, thus permitting another means by which capitalism can colonize digital social space.

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    How to cite this chapter
    Faucher, K. 2018. Online Social Capital as Capital. In: Faucher, K, Social Capital Online. London: University of Westminster Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.16997/book16.c

    This chapter distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution + Noncommercial + NoDerivatives 4.0 license. Copyright is retained by the author(s)

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    Published on June 14, 2018