Ch 08: The Attention Economy as Dystopia

Behind the Scenes of a Like on Facebook

I do not know the correct term for the feeling I have after seeing an advertisement that relates to my search history. It does not irritate me as I know everyone that uses technology experiences this. I am not sure if I was going crazy at the time. Still, I can recall having a conversation about a particular item, and low and behold, the next day, I am swarmed with advertisements of that item while scrolling through Instagram. I am unsure if this moment was a coincidence, but I felt I was being listened to. Zeynep Tufkec’s TED Talk “We’re building a dystopia just to make people click on ads.” Throughout the TED Talk, Tufkec focuses on various strategies that are used to persuade society. I related to the example of persuasion architecture to which it was explained that there is candy put a children’s eye level to grasp their attention, leaving them to then ask their parents to buy it for them. I can admit that this has happened to my parents and me. My mother would already be frustrated with the long check-out lines, so asking for a piece of candy that I did not need probably made her more frustrated. I am certain the persuasion architecture technique worked as my mother gave in every time, and I left the store with my chocolate bar. I did not find this to be too alarming as it is a marketing strategy. Every store does it. We pick up the knick-knacks in front of our eyes, knowing that we do not need it, but it looks cool, or someday you believe you’ll find a use for it. 

On the other hand, what made me frown my face was the mention of algorithms honing in one’s social media profile to collect data. How is it that one’s use of addictive substances or even their parental separations can be inferred? While on social media, I often like posts not because it relates that what I am going through but because I may agree with it or find it funny. If I like a post with the quote, “Recovery is not a race. You don’t have to feel guilty if it takes you longer than you thought it would,” will Facebook now assume I’m an addict? Maybe I do not understand correctly. Either way, I am at a loss for word, especially because algorithms play a role in politics. From this TED Talk, I learned about the use of dark posts. I am not sure if I am exaggerating, but as an African American woman, I know so many individuals within the black community who do not vote. This can be because they don’t see the need to, believe their vote won’t count or do no stay up to date with politics. To know that Facebook’s dark posts “targeted African American men in key cities like Philadelphia to convince them not to vote is upsetting.” As I have touched on in my previous blog post, it is no shocker that this occurs, but disturbing.

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