Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Show Summary Details
More options …

Open Cultural Studies

Editor-in-Chief: Miller, Toby

Open Access
Online
ISSN
2451-3474
See all formats and pricing
More options …

Manipulating Meaning: Language and Ideology in the Commodification of Online Sociality

Anu A. Harju
  • Corresponding author
  • Media and Communication Studies, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
  • Email
  • Other articles by this author:
  • De Gruyter OnlineGoogle Scholar
/ Ella Lillqvist
  • Centre for Consumer Society Research, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Helsinki, Helsinki,Finland
  • Other articles by this author:
  • De Gruyter OnlineGoogle Scholar
Published Online: 2018-10-18 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/culture-2018-0023

Abstract

Marxist Internet scholars have recently shed light on the commodification and exploitation of social media users. While some of these studies have also acknowledged the ideological nature of how online sociality is understood and discussed, they have not yet addressed in great detail the ways in which ideology figures in the process of commodification of social media users. We address this question by combining Marxist ideology theory with insights from cognitive pragmatics. Focusing on the idea of illusion, we draw on Relevance Theory and employ the notions of “relevance” and “cognitive illusion” to discuss the ideological process we call context manipulation, a concept that helps bring to focus the discursive obscuring of the capitalist operational logic of social media corporations. We illustrate our cognitivepragmatic model of ideology with examples of Facebook’s discursive practices. The paper contributes to the discussion on ideology in cultural studies and the discussion on commodification of online sociality in critical Internet and media studies by offering a revised interpretation of Marx’s ideology theory that highlights the discursive and cognitive nature of ideological processes, and by elaborating on the workings of ideology in the specific context of corporate social media.

Keywords: Marx; ideology; illusion; pragmatics; Relevance Theory; social media

References

  • Althusser, Louis. “Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses.” On Ideology, edited by Louis Althusser, Verso, 2008 [1971], pp. 1-60.Google Scholar

  • Bauman, Zygmunt. Identity: Conversations with Benedetto Vecchi. Polity Press, 2004.Google Scholar

  • Baym, Nancy, K. “Social Media and the Struggle for Society.” Social Media + Society, 1-2, 2015. doi:CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Briziarelli, Marco. “The Ideological Reproduction: (Free) Labouring and (Social) Working within Digital Landscapes.” tripleC: Communication, Capitalism & Critique, vol. 12, no. 2, 2014, pp. 620-631, www.triple-c.at/index.php/tripleC/article/view/537.Google Scholar

  • Campbell, John Edward and Matt Carlson. “Panopticon.Com: Online Surveillance and the Commodification of Privacy.” Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, vol. 46, no. 4, 2002, pp. 586-606, doi:CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Corner, John. “‘Ideology’ and Media Research.” Media, Culture & Society, vol. 38, no. 2, 2016, pp. 265-273, doi:CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Dahlberg, Lincoln. “Computer-Mediated Communication and the Public Sphere: A Critical Analysis.” Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, vol. 7, no. 1, 2001, doi:CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Downey, John. “Recognition and Renewal of Ideology Critique.” The Media and Social Theory, edited by D. Hesmondhalgh and J. Toynbee, Taylor & Francis, 2008, pp. 59-74.Google Scholar

  • Downey, John et al. “Ideology Critique: The Challenge for Media Studies.” Media, Culture & Society, vol. 36, no. 6, 2014, pp. 878-887, doi:CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Downey, John and Jason Toynbee. “Ideology: Towards Renewal of a Critical Concept.” Media, Culture & Society, vol. 38, no. 8, 2016, pp. 1261-1271, doi:CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Dyer-Witheford, Nick. Cyber-Proletariat: Global Labour in the Digital Vortex. Pluto Press, 2015.Google Scholar

  • Eagleton, Terry. Ideology: An Introduction. Verso, 1991.Google Scholar

  • Elster, Jon. An Introduction to Karl Marx. Cambridge University Press, 1986.Google Scholar

  • “Facebook Reports Fourth Quarter and Full Year 2017 Results.” Facebook Investor Relations, 31 January 2018, investor.fb.com/investor-news/press-release-details/2018/Facebook-Reports-Fourth-Quarter-and-Full-Year-2017-Results/default.aspx.Google Scholar

  • Fairclough, Norman. Analysing Discourse: Textual Analysis for Social Research. Routledge, 2003.Google Scholar

  • Fisher, Eran. “Contemporary Technology Discourse and the Legitimation of Capitalism.” European Journal of Social Theory, vol. 13, no. 2, 2010, pp. 229-252, doi:CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Fisher, Eran and Christian Fuchs, editors. Reconsidering Value and Labour in the Digital Age. Palgrave Macmillan, 2015.Google Scholar

  • Fuchs, Christian. “Dallas Smythe Today - the Audience Commodity, the Digital Labour Debate, Marxist Political Economy and Critical Theory. Prolegomena to a Digital Labour Theory of Value.” tripleC: Communication, Capitalism & Critique, vol. 10, no. 2, 2012, pp. 692-740, www.triple-c.at/index.php/tripleC/article/view/443.Google Scholar

  • ---. Digital Labour and Karl Marx. Routledge, 2014.Google Scholar

  • ---. “Marx’s Capital in the Information Age.” Capital & Class vol. 41, no. 1, 2017, pp. 51-67. doi:CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Garnham, Nicholas. “‘Information Society’ as Theory or Ideology: A Critical Perspective in Technology, Education and Employment in the Information Age.” Information, Communication & Society, vol. 3, no. 2, 2000, pp. 139-152, doi:CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Gee, James P. Social Linguistics and Literacies: Ideology in Discourses. 3rd edition. Routledge. 2008 [1990].Google Scholar

  • Cadwalladr, Carole and Emma Graham-Harrison. “Revealed: 50 million Facebook profiles harvested for Cambridge Analytica in major data breach.” The Guardian, 17 Mar. 2018, www.theguardian.com/news/2018/mar/17/cambridge-analyticafacebook- influence-us-election.Google Scholar

  • Gibbs, Samuel. “Facebook facing privacy actions across Europe as France fines firm €150k.” The Guardian, 16 May 2017, www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/may/16/facebook-facing-privacy-actions-across-europe-as-france-fines-firm-150k.Google Scholar

  • Gill, Rosalind and Kanai, Akane. “Mediating Neoliberal Capitalism: Affect, Subjectivity and Inequality.” Journal of Communication, vol. 68, pp. 318-326, 2018. doi:CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Grice, Herbert Paul. “Logic and Conversation.” Syntax and Semantics, Vol. 3, Speech Acts, edited by Peter Cole and Jerry L. Morgan, Academic Press, 1975, pp. 41-58.Google Scholar

  • ---. “Meaning.” The philosophical review, vol. 66, no. 3, 1957, pp. 377-388, www.jstor.org/stable/2182440.Google Scholar

  • Hall, Stuart. “Signification, Representation, Ideology: Althusser and the Post-Structuralist Debates.” Critical Studies in Mass Communication, vol. 2, 1985, pp. 91-114, doi:CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • ---. “The Problem of Ideology: Marxism without Guarantees.” Journal of Communication Inquiry, vol. 10, no. 2, 1986, pp.28-44, doi:CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Harvey, David. A Brief History of Neoliberalism. Oxford University Press, USA, 2005.Google Scholar

  • Hern, Alex. “Facebook personal data use and privacy settings ruled illegal by German court.” The Guardian, 12 Feb. 2018, www.theguardian.com/technology/2018/feb/12/facebook-personal-data-privacy-settings-ruled-illegal-german-court.Google Scholar

  • Herzog, Benno. “Marx’s Critique of Ideology for Discourse Analysis: From Analysis of Ideologies to Social Critique.” Critical Discourse Studies, 2018, doi:CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Hogan, Libby and Michael Safi. “Revealed: Facebook hate speech exploded in Myanmar during Rohingya crisis.” The Guardian, 3 Apr. 2018, www.theguardian.com/world/2018/apr/03/revealed-facebook-hate-speech-exploded-inmyanmar-during-rohingya-crisis.Google Scholar

  • Johnson-Laird, Philip N. and Fabien Savary. “Illusory Inferences: A Novel Class of Erroneous Deductions.” Cognition, vol. 71, no. 3, 1999, pp. 191-229, doi:CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Johnson-Laird, Philip N. How We reason. New York: Oxford University Press. 2006.Google Scholar

  • Kang, Hyunjin and Matthew P. McAllister. “Selling You and Your Clicks: Examining the Audience Commodification of Google.” tripleC: Communication, Capitalism & Critique, vol. 9, no. 2, 2011, pp. 141-153, www.triple-c.at/index.php/tripleC/article/view/255.Google Scholar

  • Laclau, Ernesto. “The Death and Resurrection of the Theory of Ideology.” MLN, vol. 112, no. 3, 1997, pp. 297-321, www.jstor.org/stable/3251278.Google Scholar

  • Larrain, Jorge. “Stuart Hall and the Marxist Concept of Ideology.” Theory, Culture & Society, vol. 8, no. 4, 1991, pp. 1-28, doi:CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Levinson, Stephen C. Pragmatics. Cambridge University Press, 1983.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Lillqvist, Ella and Anu A. Harju. “Discourse of Enticement: How Facebook Solicits Users.” Critical Approaches to Discourse Analysis Across Disciplines (CADAAD journal), vol. 10, no. 1, 2018, pp. 63-80.Google Scholar

  • Lovink, Geert. “On the Social Media Ideology.” e-flux journal, vol. 75, 2016, pp. 1-10, www.e-flux.com/journal/75/67166/on-the-social-media-ideology/.Google Scholar

  • Maillat, Didier and Steve Oswald. “Defining Manipulative Discourse: The Pragmatics of Cognitive Illusions.” International Review of Pragmatics, vol. 1, no. 2, 2009, pp. 348-370, doi:CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Martin, Craig. “Ideology and the Study of Religion: Marx, Althusser, and Foucault.” Religion Compass, vol. 7, no. 9, 2013, pp. 402-411, doi:CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Marx, Karl. Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844. International Publishers, 1964.Google Scholar

  • ---. A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy. Progress Publishers, 1977.Google Scholar

  • ---. Capital: A Critique of Political Economy. (Online Version: Marx/Engels Internet Archive). Vol. I, Harmondsworth: Penguin/New Left Review, 1995, www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1867-c1/index.htm.Google Scholar

  • ---. The German Ideology. Electric Book Company, 2000.Google Scholar

  • Marx, Karl and Friedrich Engels. The Communist Manifesto. Electric Book Company, 2000.Google Scholar

  • Mey, Jacob L. Pragmatics: An Introduction. 2nd edition, Blackwell, 2001.Google Scholar

  • Myers West, Sarah. “Data Capitalism: Redefining the Logics of Surveillance and Privacy.” Business & Society, 2017, pp. 1-22, doi:CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Morris, Warren Frederick. Understanding Ideology. University Press of America, 2010.Google Scholar

  • Mosco, Vincent. The Political Economy of Communication. SAGE Publications, 2009.Google Scholar

  • Na, Yuqi. “Advertising on Social Media: The Reality Behind the Ideology of ‘Free Access’. The Case of Chinese Social MediaGoogle Scholar

  • Platforms.” Reconsidering Value and Labour in the Digital Age, edited by E. Fisher and C. Fuchs, Palgrave Macmillan, 2015.Google Scholar

  • Rancière, Jacques. Althusser’s Lesson. Translated by E. Battista, Continuum, 2011 [1974].Google Scholar

  • Skeggs, Beverley and Simon Yuill. “Capital Experimentation with Person/A Formation: How Facebook’s Monetization Refigures the Relationship between Property, Personhood and Protest.” Information, Communication & Society, vol. 19, no. 3, 2016, pp. 380-396, doi:CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Smythe, Dallas W. “Communications: Blindspot of Western Marxism.” CTheory, vol. 1, no. 3, 1977, pp. 1-27, journals.uvic.ca/index.php/ctheory/article/view/13715/4463.Google Scholar

  • Sperber, Dan and Deirdre Wilson. Relevance: Communication and Cognition. 2nd edition, Blackwell 1995.Google Scholar

  • Srnicek, Nick. Platform Capitalism. Polity Press, 2017.Google Scholar

  • Thompson, John B. Ideology and Modern Culture: Critical Social Theory in the Era of Mass Communication. Polity Press, 1990.Google Scholar

  • Thurlow, Crispin. “Fakebook: Synthetic Media, Pseudo-Sociality and the Rhetorics of Web 2.0.” Discourse 2.0: Language and New Media, edited by D. Tannen and A.M. Trester, Georgetown University Press, 2013, pp. 225-249.Google Scholar

  • Van Alsenoy, Brendan et al. From social media service to advertising network: A critical analysis of Facebook’s Revised Policies and Terms, 2015, www.law.kuleuven.be/citip/en/news/item/facebooks-revised-policies-and-terms-v1-3.pdfGoogle Scholar

  • van Dijck, J. The Culture of Connectivity: A Critical History of Social Media. Oxford University Press, 2013.Google Scholar

  • van Dijk, T. A. “Ideology and Discourse Analysis.” Journal of Political Ideologies, vol. 11, no. 2, 2006, pp. 115-140, doi:CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Wilson, Deirdre and Dan Sperber. “Relevance Theory.” Working Papers in Linguistics, 2002, www.phon.ucl.ac.uk/publications/WPL/02papers/wilson_sperber.pdf.Google Scholar

  • Wilson, Deirdre. “Relevance Theory.” Oxford Handbook of Pragmatics, edited by Y. Huang, Oxford University Press, 2013.Google Scholar

  • Žižek, Slavoj. “The Spectre of Ideology.” Mapping Ideology, edited by S. Žižek, Verso, 1994, pp. 1-33.Google Scholar

About the article

Received: 2018-03-02

Accepted: 2018-09-17

Published Online: 2018-10-18

Published in Print: 2018-10-01


Citation Information: Open Cultural Studies, Volume 2, Issue 1, Pages 249–261, ISSN (Online) 2451-3474, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/culture-2018-0023.

Export Citation

© by Anu A. Harju and Ella Lillqvist, published by De Gruyter. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 License. BY-NC-ND 4.0

Comments (0)

Please log in or register to comment.
Log in