“As an industry, coolhunting explicitly turns on this production of authenticity and legitimacy. The transaction between brand and employee is one of social—and increasingly, multicultural—capital. My own misgivings about these dynamics, however, soon gave way to more practical constraints of time and money. Or so I told myself. Really, what I would be selling was not my time, but something that I realized—albeit with cringey trepidation—was far more valuable: my own multicultural capital and connections. My wasta.”
Algorithmic recommendation is not simply a higher-resolution representation of a market — a more precise picture of atomistic individuals that does away with the need for larger-scale approximations like market segments. Rather, it is another mode of the synaptic function — another technique for making and interpreting correspondences between persons and things, another way of organizing collective forms. Collaborative filters algorithmically rearticulate the relationship between individual and aggregate traits, suggesting the need for social scientific theories that eschew the classic break between groups and their members (for a preliminary attempt at such an approach, see Latour et al., forthcoming).
The work of recommendation, like the work of demographic marketing, relies on the idea that there are meaningful similarities among consumers and that these similarities correspond with similarities in objects. However, in algorithmic form, these correspondences take on new forms and meanings, blending preference, identity, and similarity. As these theories are built into online infrastructures, shaping the relations between persons and things and articulating new collective forms, they demand attention, not only as material for analysis, but as new modes of analysis itself.”
Lastly, we set up six Facebook profiles to check the impact of sexual-preference: a highly-sensitive personal attribute. Two profiles (male control) are for males interested in females, two (female control) for females interested in males, and one test profile of a male interested in males and one of a female interested in females. The age and
location were set to 25 and Washington D.C. respectively. Figure 6 plots the similarity scores for 1 week of data. While there is more noise in general, unlike in 4(c) there is
a measurable difference between the control and test pairs; we further manually verified based on ad content that this difference is qualitative in nature (e.g. ads for gay bars were never shown for the control profiles, but shown often for the test profiles). The median similarity score for gay women was 0.15 higher than for gay men, indicating that advertisers target more strongly to the latter demographic.
Alarmingly, we found ads where the ad text was completely neutral to sexual-preference (e.g. for a nursing degree in a medical college in Florida) that was targeted exclusively to gay men. The danger with such ads, unlike the gay bar ad where the target demographic is blatantly obvious, is that the user reading the ad text would have no idea that by clicking it he would reveal to the advertiser both his sexual-preference and a unique identifier (cookie, IP address, or email address if he signs up on the advertiser’s site). Furthermore, such deceptive ads are not uncommon; indeed exactly half of the 66 ads shown exclusively to gay men (more than 50 times) during our experiment did not
mention “gay” anywhere in the ad text.
Overall we find that while location affects Google ads, behavioral targeting does not today appear to significantly affect either search or website ads on Google. Location, user demographics and interests, and sexual preference all affect Facebook ads.”
“We also find that consumer product innovation spans a wide range of fields, from toys, to tools, to sporting equipment, and to personal solutions for medical problems: clearly, consumer innovation is not a niche phenomenon,” Von Hippel and two European colleagues wrote. “We discover that consumer-developed innovations generally diffuse freely from the perspective of consumer-innovators. Very few consumers protect their innovations by patents or other means, or receive payments for them.”