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Accessible Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by transcript Verlag December 24, 2016

What Counts? Reflections on the Multivalence of Social Media Data

Carolin Gerlitz
From the journal Digital Culture & Society

Abstract

Social media platforms have been characterised by their programmability, affordances, constraints and stakeholders - the question of value and valuation of platforms, their data and features has, however, received less attention in platform studies. This paper explores the specific socio-technical conditions for valuating platform data and suggests that platforms set up their data to become multivalent, that is to be valuable alongside multiple, possibly conflicting value regimes. Drawing on both platform and valuation studies, it asks how the production, storing and circulation of data, its connection to user action and the various stakeholders of platforms contribute to its valuation. Platform data, the paper suggests, is the outcome of capture systems which allow to collapse action and its capture into pre-structured data forms which remain open to divergent interpretations. Platforms offer such grammars of action both to users and other stakeholders in frontand back-ends, inviting them to produce and engage with its data following heterogeneous orders of worth. Platform data can participate in different valuation regimes at the same time - however, the paper concludes, not all actors can participate in all modes of valuation, as in the end, it is the platform that sets the conditions for participation. The paper offers a conceptual perspective to interrogate what data counts by attending to questions of quantification, its entanglement with valuation and the various technologies and stakeholders involved. It finishes with an empirical experiment to map the various ways in which Instagram data is made to count.

Published Online: 2016-12-24
Published in Print: 2016-12-1

© 2016 by transcript Verlag