From Mass Culture to Personalization

Lindsay Weinberg
History of Consciousness
UC Santa Cruz

This dissertation project is an interdisciplinary analysis of personalization in the digital economy. Methods include ethnographic interviews, discourse analysis, legal studies, and critique of political economy. Personalization is framed as a means of meaningfully differentiating commodities and services in contrast to mass culture. It is predicated on the extraction of information from every point in the circulation of capital in order to allocate advertisements, logistically coordinate supply chains, and manage the workplace. Previous scholarship has argued for the expansion of the category of labor to describe the user-generated value of consumer data without addressing what differentiates information assets from traditional commodities. Personalization is a means of producing information assets that is contingent upon both leisure-time and labor-time surveillance in ways that intensify exploitation. Conditions of labor and leisure are restructured in order to facilitate the monitoring, mining, and extraction of data that allows for differential pricing and market prediction.