I’m just finishing off this Frank Pasquale paper I began reading yesterday. I really can’t recommend it enough. I particularly liked this passage on what I’m describing as the kind of digital social science that digital capitalism is encouraging:
There is something even more disturbing than the lack of consent here: namely, the easy hybridization of social network analysis and social psychology experimentation. Ordinary users can’t access, challenge, or try to adapt the code that Facebook uses to order their newsfeeds, except in the crude and stylized ways offered by the company. Social scientists have to play by Facebook’s rules to have access to the data they need—and we can probably assume that a more informed consent process was either tacitly or explicitly rejected as too much of an interference with the ordinary business of Facebooking. So the restricted autonomy of the researchers in turn led to the impairment of the autonomy of the users. This example of values sacrificed in the name of market rationality is a microcosm of much larger trends in ordinary users’ experience of the Web, and researchers’ experience of their own craft.