In this post I want to pose and answer two questions: are surveillance capitalists behaviorists? And does it matter? Short answer: surveillance capitalists are not behaviorists, but behavioralists. Behavioralists are okay with guiding individual level behavior as long as it leads to higher-order system behavior that they think is useful; in other words, they have a different theory of freedom than behaviorists. Painting Silicon Valley engineers as behaviorists is no doubt politically useful (on which more below) but will it be persuasive when push comes to shove in the battle to regulate the digital economy? I try to untangle some of these contradictions below.
[Note: This is a lightly edited re-post of a blog-post originally published on Work in Progress, a public sociology blog created by the American Sociological Association to disseminate research results. It summarizes findings from “Engineering a platform: The construction of interfaces, users, organizational roles, and the division of labor” in New Media and Society, first published online in […]