So if we take the idea that social media users are the labour force that produces the product (social graph, for Facebook, adjust as relevant to your preferred social media platform) then how come no one has thought about the eventual endgame of the same process of automation that Marx spoke about happening in the factories of the 18th and 19th centuries?
Let’s look at an example: the ‘About Birds‘ Facebook page has 9-likes. One of them is me. Who else has liked this clearly spammerific etsy-esque store attempting valiantly to sell bird-decorated products? Actually ‘About Birds’ is just one of a suite of similar pages – About Monkeys, About Dolphins, etc – and some of the people who interact with these pages are clearly, well, bots or at best sock-puppets, and they appear to constitute the majority of the ‘likes’ on the page.
Is there a “real person” behind the Sharon Housley Facebook page? What about Sharon’s friends? Emmie Snow. Emma Snow. Maya Locke. Jacob Maddox. Mick St James. All of these pages are clearly not what one would call the ‘average Facebook user’. They have some other more ‘legit’ seeming friends (goodnes knows why – perhaps for appearances sake? what do they think of these sockpuppet pages?) but I think viewing them as “spam” or “fake” accounts misses the most interesting and important aspect of them. Even if they aren’t “automated” in an algorithmic sense, instead being operated by “real” humans (this is mostly informed conjecture) then the work these accounts perform for pages like About Birds, and About Monkeys, etc, represents an automation of the generation of social metrics. Extra likes, extra comments, appear to be all these accounts contribute.
And it can only be a matter of time (in fact, thinking about it I’m 100% sure it already exists) before someone makes a fully automated “facebook account bot”, completing the process of automating social labour. Of course, this raises some interesting questions about the value assumed to be contained in big data like Social Graph, etc. When it’s mostly bots, or mostly humans providing digital noise as cover for their real activities, where’s the profit?