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Conference Proceeding (Original Research Article)

The Political Economy of Social Data

A Historical Analysis of Platform–Industry Partnerships

Anne Helmond a, David B. Nieborg b, Fernando N. van der Vlist a, c (alphabetical)

a (Dept. of Media Studies,) University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands
b (Dept. of Arts, Culture & Media) University of Toronto, Canada
c (DFG Collab. Res. Centre 1187 “Media of Cooperation”,) University of Siegen, Germany

Published in: Proceedings of the 8th 2017 International Conference on Social Media 8th International Conference on Social Media & Society (SMSociety’17). Ted Rogers School of Management, Ryerson University, Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada. 28–30 July 2017. New York, NY: ACM Publications, 2017. Print. doi:10.1145/3097286.3097324.

Submitted: 31 January 2017; Revised: 14 April 2017; Accepted: 19 May 2017; Published: July 2017

Abstract

Social media platform–industry partnerships are essential to understanding the politics and economics of social data circulating among platforms and third parties. Using Facebook as a case study, this paper develops a novel methodology for empirically surveying the historical dynamics of social media industry partnerships and partner programs. Facebook is particularly emblematic as one of the few dominant actors that functions both as data aggregator and as digital marketing platform whilst operating a multiplicity of dedicated partner programs that cater to a wide array of industry partners. We employ mixed methods by aligning digital historical research and interview methods: using “digital methods”, we reconstruct both ongoing and former declared platform–industry partnerships and programs with web data whilst conducting semi-structured interviews with selected platform partners to contextualize the empirical research. This enables us to address (i) the dynamic relations between social media platforms and industry partners, (ii) their diversification by catering to a growing number of stakeholders with distinct interests, and (iii) their gradual entrenchment as dominant actors within an emerging digital marketing ecosystem. By tracing how and when partnerships and industry alliances are forged, sustained, and terminated over time we are able to develop a critical account of the political economy of social data that addresses the politics of platforms and stakeholders as well as the consolidation of platform power.

CCS Concepts

social media platforms, digital methods, partner networks, political economy, social data, digital marketing, Facebook

Collaborative and social computing→Collaborative and social, computing theory, concepts and paradigms→Social media
Collaborative and social computing→Collaborative and social computing systems and tools→Social networking sites

Keywords

social media platforms, digital methods, partner networks, political economy, social data, digital marketing, Facebook

social media platforms
digital methods
partner networks
political economy
social data
digital marketing
Facebook

Tables and Figures

Figures

Fig. 1. Timeline diagram describing the development of Facebook's official partner programs since early 2008. (bit.ly/2ruizlY)

Fig. 2. Timeline diagram of Facebook's changing partner specialties, types of certification, and associated partner badges since 2010. (bit.ly/2rKK5M8)

Fig. 3. Stacked bar diagram describing concurrent additions, continuations, and deletions to Facebook's official marketing partner programs since 2010. (bit.ly/2rbFsdi; tabular data: bit.ly/2oYvpI5)

Info
Title: The Political Economy of Social Data
Subtitle: A Historical Analysis of Platform–Industry Partnerships
Type: Conference proceeding; Original research article; Abstract
Abstract: Social media platform–industry partnerships are essential to understanding the politics and economics of social data circulating among platforms and third parties. Using Facebook as a case study, this paper develops a novel methodology for empirically surveying the historical dynamics of social media industry partnerships and partner programs. Facebook is particularly emblematic as one of the few dominant actors that functions both as data aggregator and as digital marketing platform whilst operating a multiplicity of dedicated partner programs that cater to a wide array of industry partners. We employ mixed methods by aligning digital historical research and interview methods: using “digital methods”, we reconstruct both ongoing and former declared platform–industry partnerships and programs with web data whilst conducting semi-structured interviews with selected platform partners to contextualize the empirical research. This enables us to address (i) the dynamic relations between social media platforms and industry partners, (ii) their diversification by catering to a growing number of stakeholders with distinct interests, and (iii) their gradual entrenchment as dominant actors within an emerging digital marketing ecosystem. By tracing how and when partnerships and industry alliances are forged, sustained, and terminated over time we are able to develop a critical account of the political economy of social data that addresses the politics of platforms and stakeholders as well as the consolidation of platform power.
Keywords: social media platforms, digital methods, partner networks, political economy, social data, digital marketing, Facebook
Length.words: 3,630
Length.reading: 20 mins
Sections: Abstract; CCS Concepts; Keywords; 1. Introduction; 2. Background and Related Work; 3. Research Design; 4. Results; 4.1. Historical Partner Analysis; 4.2. Historical Partnership Analysis; 5. Discussion; 6. Conclusion; 7. Authorship Contribution; 8. References; Tables and Figures; Figures
Element.figure: Fig. 1; Fig. 2; Fig. 3
Conference: 2017 International Conference on Social Media & Society
Conference.abbrev: SMSociety’17
Conference.place: Toronto, CA, Canada
Conference.date: 28–30 July 2017
Publisher: ACM Publications
Publisher.place: New York, NY, United States
Proceedings.series: ACM International Conference Proceedings Series
Proceedings.abbrev: ICPS
Issue.title: Social Media for Social Good or Evil
Issue.section: Work-in-Progress (WIP) Papers
Date.submitted: 31 Jan. 2017
Date.revised: 14 Apr. 2017
Date.accepted: 19 May 2017
Date.published: July 2017
Language: English (Canada)
Authorship.contribution: All authors contributed equally to this work.
Copyright: © 2017 Copyright is held by the owner/author(s). Publication rights licensed to ACM.
Documentation.style: ACM SIG Proceedings
Export.citation: BibTEX
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