The word “social” is acquiring a rather interesting meaning under late-stage corporate capitalism. Like so much else in this market-totalitarian order, it is increasingly becoming a Trojan Horse for a specific form of exploitation — namely, the lavishly sponsored provocation of individuals’ voluntary but only vaguely conscious disclosure of their most intimate “consumer” behaviors and motivations to the overclass, sans compensation to, or control by, those who disclose. Q: When are media now “social media”? A: When the aforementioned activity is at the heart of their structure and content.
All of which calls to mind a story I reported in The Consumer Trap book, which I researched and mostly wrote in the 1990s. Here is the tale of which I’m thinking:
Jack Honomichl, a columnist for Marketing News, recounted in his publication’s November 19, 1992, issue a story that conveys how marketers hope to shape targeting’s further development: “Barry Cook, senior vice president/chief research officer of Nielsen Media Research … [described at a marketing conference a] scenario for what he termed `the utopia of media and marketing’ that could be available through `hypertargeting.’ Here’s how that went”:
After a hard day at work, where your income is tracked and fed into the hypertargeting data base, you drive home. The route you take, including the stores you pass, is captured from the homing signals of your car phone.
Home at last, you have a great dinner, prepared with food that has been scanned at the checkout counter (along with the coupons your husband used when he bought them), and linked to your infoaccount because he charged the groceries on a credit card.
Next, you settle down in front of the TV in the privacy of your living room. You just signed up for AT&TV; it’s like having 1o,ooo channels and a Blockbuster video store to choose from without your hand ever leaving the remote control.
Your TV has everything you could possibly want to see, when you want to see it, and it is absolutely free as long as you answer the simple questions at the end of each commercial.
The commercials aren’t that bad, actually. They are all pretty interesting because they are selected especially for you. The hypertargeting data base takes the information about how much money you have left, what you purchase, and what you watch.
“Cook’s scenario continues to fascinate me,” Honomichl concluded, “partly because it’s probably closer to the truth than I want to acknowledge…. This scenario doesn’t require new technologies. They exist now, although some may be a bit expensive for large-scale application in the marketing/advertising research industry-so far.”
Of course, hypertargeting has been on the overclass agenda since well before Honomichl shared his 1992 thoughts.
The next frontier in the ongoing “social” process is, of course, “social TV,” meaning television content delivered within the framework of the internet and its ever-expanding cookie-laden data-harvesting capacities. (Those capacities, by the way, have already disposed of the need, imagined by Honomichl, for media users to do anything so quaint as answering questions in order to render up their minutest demographic, psychographic, financial, behavioral, and historical information.)
If you doubt the ardor and effort coming from above regarding the onset of “social TV,” have a click on that graphic up top…