Online Culture Expression: Creation or Control?

Online services have provided us with digital affordances that connect us to friends and family through interests and likes through websites, such as search engines, social networking sites and media content sites.  We have access to these services given that we complete the registration process with accuracy.  By providing these services with this information, the experiences had on these websites are better tailored for the individual. The problem that arises is that when we create our visible online profile we are simultaneously creating a profile invisible to us exploited by marketing companies.

Amazon's product suggestions based on previous purchases

Amazon’s product suggestions based on previous purchases

Online social networking sites are possible through the affordances of Web 2.0, which gives users greater processing power while also lending itself to providing archival capabilities.  SNS require that users create their own profiles through already created skeletal templates that are fleshed out through the construction of their interests.  Online profile and content creation is known as affective processing in which users “…are expected to process digital objects by sharing content, making connections, ranking cultural artifacts and producing digital content…” (Gehl 1229).  Online users are constantly making the marketer’s job easier by providing them with the breadth of their work.

Creating an identifiable range of products for a demographic is not limited through Web 2.0 because SNS encourage continual updating of profiles, likes and statuses.  Marketers no longer need to chart the direction of the market because users are encouraged to do it themselves because  “user-generated ‘newness’ and the emphasis on always-becoming are built into the architecture of Web 2.0,” (Gehl 1233).   This information is current allowing for immediate analysis but also archived allowing for the analysis of consumer culture over years.  Culture control doesn’t come from the ability to create it but the ability to sell it.  To engage in culture is inherent in the social world, individuals will want to engage each other in cultural games and celebrations, regardless of if there is a price.  The question that must be asked is whether or not online culture expression a freedom or a prison.

Gehl, Robert W. “The archive and the processor: The internal logic of Web 2.0.” New media & society 13.8 (2011): 1228-1244.

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