Do you have an online presence of any kind? Facebook? Email? Did you google ‘easy chocolate cake recipes’ last week? Just by reading this post you have an online presence! Congratulations, you are now a product. And yes, I did not say consumer or user, I said product.
Every time you access and share information across the internet, ranging from google searches to instagramming that meal with parsley, you are effectively taking on the role of a knowledge worker. Coined in 1959 by Peter Drucker, the ‘knowledge worker’ has the chronic task of sorting information flow within their own time and space, separate from materials. This concept of knowledge workers is an integral part of the new phenomenon, Liquid Labour (Mitew, 2014).
As we have shifted from an industrial economy to an information economy, our online presence has become something of great value to social media sites and advertising companies. Every time you like, share or comment on something online you are effectively creating a demographic of data. This data is an essential part of our information economy; culture and commerce have become intermixed (Kepes, 2014, Rushkoff, 2014).
“The currency of ‘likes’ turns into actual currency”
In 2014, Frontline investigated this new liquid labour phenomenon through a company aptly titled, the Audience. Initiated in America by Oliver Luckett, the Audience is a company that runs purely on liquid labour.
The Audience label themselves as a talent agency that also works in promoting, publishing and networking. In short, the Audience work with individuals and advertising companies to use the sorted information that we, the products, provide to endorse their clients and products.
For example, the Audience endorse actor Ian Somerhalder simultaneously with products and brands purely through content gained from users of social media. The image below shows how the Audience tracks the interactions between people who ‘like’ Ian Somerhalder on Facebook and the products/ brands these users have also liked. The percentages indicate how many people liked Ian and the brands listed.
The Audience is then able to show this information that users provided to advertising companies, who will in turn endorse Ian Somerhalder and effectively market to you, the user and the product. In the words of the Audience’s CEO, Oliver Luckett, “if you’re connected to Ian and he likes the product, then you like Ian and you like the product, then you’ve got a double endorsement to your friends” (Luckett, 2014)
So there you go. Liquid Labour. Every thing you like, share and follow online is providing media sites with data about your interests, which is then sold to advertising companies who are then able to market specifically to you. All this from the data you provided in the first place! You are effectively working for free and allowing yourself to become a product.
So next time you’re online and feeling this:
Remember to be wary that media corporations and advertisers are thinking this:
Doctube. (2014). Documentary – Frontline – Generation Like. Correspondent: Douglas Rushkoff [Online Video]. 21 July. Available from:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1gmgXxB9QiA&feature=youtu.be [Accessed: 19 August 2014].
Kepes, B, 2014. Google Users – You’re The Product, Not The Customer. Forbes, [Online]. 1, 1. Available at: http://www.forbes.com/sites/benkepes/2013/12/04/google-users-youre-the-product-not-the-customer/ [Accessed 19 August 2014].
Mitew, T (2014) Lecture: Liquid Labour, 18 August. Available from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q3M9x_UJkoo [Accessed 19 Aug 2014]
theAudience. 2014. theAudience. [ONLINE] Available at:http://theaudience.com/. [Accessed 20 August 2014].