This machine eats normativity

In his recent book of essays, Will Davies draws a comparison between securitisation and digital platforms. From pg 15-16 of This Is Not Normal:

These are just some of the ways in which the credit derivative and the platform have transformed our political world in the twenty-first century. But there is more to it than this: they share a common logic, which eats away at integrity of public institutions. The function of both credit derivatives and of platforms is to take existing relationships built around mutuality and trust and then exploit them for profit. A loan, originally, was something that concerned two parties: the lender and the borrower. In its purest form, it depended on moral evaluations of character and honesty (judgements which were inevitably polluted by cultural, racial and gendered prejudice). Securitisation takes the debt relation that exists between two parties and turns it into an asset that yields a return. It turns a moral norm (in this case, a duty of repayment) into a commodity. The underlying logic of a platform is the same. Facebook, YouTube and Uber take forms of mutual dependence that already exist in society, and find a way of extracting a revenue from them. These companies didn’t invent friendship, cultural creation or municipal transport, but found a way to intervene in existing networks of these things in pursuit of profit. As with mortgage securitisation, they take two-way relations and insert themselves as an unnecessary third party. Along the way, they introduce scoring and ranking systems, quantifying the quality of social activity in terms of ‘likes’, ‘shares’ and stars out of five. A relationship based around trust is disrupted, and turned into one of instrumentality, strategy and self-interest.

He argues this works to “drive a wedge between the ‘front stage’ and the ‘back stage’ of social and public life” in which the general population has one view while elites who can relate to the front-stage (“the rules, rituals and culture of everyday life”) as a resource to be mined.

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