Response to Datafication, Commodification, and Selection
Updated: Apr 18, 2020
The following is a discussion board post I made for a Media Ecology course in response to this prompt:
"In chapter 2 of The Platform Society, the authors introduce three platform mechanisms (or in media ecology terms, biases) and argue that the interplay of these biases "can be decisive for the actors involved" (p. 32). These mechanisms are "datafication", "commodification", and "selection". For this week's prompt (and in a succinct paragraph or two) I'd like for you to address the following:
What are these biases/mechanisms?
How do these biases (i.e. their interplay) work within an app that you use frequently?
Any surprises here (about how these biases work in your chosen app, or who they're working for)?
We know much more about the "Big 5", so please select an app that isn't as mainstream (doesn't need to be obscure, but just avoid selecting the usual suspects). For example, I use an app called "MyFitness Pal". Please be sure to internally cite any sources consulted for your mini investigation (a simple in-text citation will do for our purposes)."
The first of the three mechanisms or biases which Van Dijck overviewed was called datafication, which Mayer-Schönberger and Cukier (2013) defined as the "ability of networked platforms to render into data many aspects of the world that have never been quantified before" (pg. 33) and which Van Dijck explained is comprised of behavioral meta-data captured from every form of user interaction imaginable. The second mechanism is called commodification which, "involves platforms transforming online and offline objects, activities, emotions, and ideas into tradable commodities" (pg. 37). The third and final form is called selection or curation, which transitioned from the traditional human expertise form of gatekeeping to increasingly data-driven algorithmically processed ones. As someone who's spent a great deal of time studying global and transnational media corporations long-game monopolization of media, it was eye-opening to see how transformative these three filters have shifted and changed the now platformatized ecological game.
"...are not responsible if information made available on any Platform is not accurate, complete or current. The material on the Platforms are provided for general information only and should not be relied upon or used as the sole basis for making decisions without consulting primary, more accurate, more complete or more timely sources of information. Any reliance on the material on any Platform is at your own risk" (para. 8).
With the above explanation of this device in mind, it's clear how its companion app's usage is orchestrated through all three interplaying mechanisms (or biases) Van Dijck discussed in chapter two. The only surprise for me is that this app hasn't yet been more overtly integrated with others. Though, I suppose that may not have been its creators/designers prerogative. What I mean is, unlike other health apps (like My FitnessPal, which in my experience has always pushed notified advertisements), this Treadly app by comparison feels much more like a technological dead-end or cul-de-sac. At first breath, and after sifting this app's interface through the three filters, it's quite clear this companion app was first and foremost created by Treadly for the sole purpose of selling a slightly more expensive version of their machine.