Speakers series - Christian Fuentes
Living with digital infrastructures: Shaping the data disclosure practices of consumers
- 9 March 2023
- 14.15 – 16.00
- Live on Campus at Karlstad University
- Andersalen (11D121)
When we use any type of digital platform – music streaming services, train ticket bookings, dating apps, e-stores – our digital traces are collected, stored, analyzed and used to classify us and our actions. While consumers commonly express concern over the commercial surveillance they are subjected to, studies have repeatedly shown that the majority of consumers take few measures to prevent companies’ data collection practices. This is known as the privacy paradox. Previous research has argued that this paradox is the result of rational decision-making processes referred to as the privacy calculous. Consumers, it is argued, calculate the tradeoff between the value they receive by the service offered and the cost of disclosing their data, often coming to the conclusion that the transaction is worth it.
In this talk I will, based on an on-going project that examines consumers’ data disclosure practices, challenge the view of the consumer as a rational and autonomous decision-maker and offer a competing explanation as to why the privacy paradox exists. Making use of the infrastructures of consumption literature, I will propose that the digital platforms used by consumers in everyday lives have gained infrastructural properties and that this, in turn, shapes the ways in which consumers approach data collecting practices.
More specifically, drawing on ethnographic interviews with 17 Swedish consumers and digital observations of the platforms they use, I will put forward that that because digital platforms have become infrastructures – large, complex, socio-technical arrangements, distributed across time-space, “silently” supporting everyday practices – consumers are not fully able to comprehend the surveillance they are subjected to, evaluate its consequences, or capable to change their practices to avoid data collection. While consumers develop practical strategies to manage the platforms data collecting practices, these strategies are not the result of rational decision-making processes, but the outcome of socio-technical agencing processes in which consumers capacity to act is both enabled and delimited by the digital platforms used.
Christian Fuentes is a Professor at the Department of Service Studies, Lund University. His research explores the interrelationships of consumption, markets, and society. He often takes a socio-material approach exploring how devices, technologies, and infrastructures shape consumption, marketing work, and the organization of markets. His work draws on and combines economic sociology, STS and practice theory and often employs ethnographic methods. Much of his work has been devoted to trying to understand two broad societal transformations: the transition towards sustainability and the digitalization of societies. He has conducted research on the organization of alternative markets, ethical consumption, the digitalization of music listening, digitalized shopping, and data privacy in the digitalized surveillance society.