Platform capitalism’s ideology of human frailty

I like this framing by Zuboff in Surveillance Capitalism as a way of talking about what Bacevic has described as independent irrational animals. It fits interestingly with what Ben Tarnoff and Moira Weigel describe as ‘tech humanism’: the belief that “unhealthy and inhumane” business models can be fixed through better design which rests on an ironically dehumanising language of our ‘lizard brains’ being ‘hijacked’:

In addition to inevitabilism, surveillance capitalism has eagerly weaponized behavioral economics’ ideology of human frailty, a worldview that frames human mentation as woefully irrational and incapable of noticing the regularity of its own failures. Surveillance capitalists employ this ideology to legitimate their means of behavior modification: tuning, herding, and conditioning individuals and populations in ways that are designed to elude awareness.

This relates to what I’ve written about as the evisceration of the human under digital capitalism: the process by which an engagement with the behavioural traces of agency comes to substitute for an engagement with agents. In the work I’m doing with Andrea Maccarini on platform socialisation we’ll explore what this means during the intensified reliance upon platforms which the pandemic has given rise to.

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