“According to the sociologist Manuel Castells (2000), society in the early twenty-first century is characterized by a social structure he calls the “network society”.
[In his book Communication Power] Castells distinguishes between several distinct kinds of power in social networks. He argues that the paramount form of power in the network society is the power to constitute networks - to connect individuals and institutions to these networks, or to exclude them, and to interconnect different networks.
In addition to power as domination of others, which arises from conflicts of interest, as we have seen, there is another kind of power - power of empowerment of others. Whereas power as domination is most effectively exercised through a hierarchy, the most effective social structure for power as empowerment is the network. In a social network, people are empowered by being connected to the network.
In such a network the success of the whole community depends on the success of its individual members, while the success of each member depends on the success of the community as a whole. Any enrichment of individuals, due to increased connectedness in the network, will therefore also enrich the entire network. In social networks, the hubs with the richest connections become centers of power. Because they connect large numbers of people to the network they are sought out as authorities in various fields. Thus, in a social network the centers of power are centers of both empowerment and of authority. “
"If [book / album ] covers can be construed as misleading or superficial wrappers, platform algorithms are hardly more honest. They introduce their own form of deception, feeding users content according to biases and affordances that are frequently opaque, obfuscated, concealed, or misleadingly represented. At their most transparent, streaming services like Spotify reductively mirror your past choices back to you; Netflix, however, has gone as far as to covertly recontextualize movie screen shots for its menu displays based on individual viewers’ data, in order to entice those viewers to watch more — an algorithmic subversion of the physical cover that is slightly different for everyone."
"These dynamics highlight how, on platforms like Spotify and Netflix, specific artists and their works are not the objects offered to the users for consumption — a focus that covers supported. **Instead, the object of consumption is the platforms themselves. More than watching certain shows, we watch Netflix; more than listening to songs, we listen to Spotify; more than reading particular books, we read our Kindles.* We can choose not to pay attention to the details beyond that. Our peers frequently don’t know what we’re watching, listening to, or reading, but we don’t necessarily know either."*
"Screens foreground the digital platform itself as singular, and thereby assimilate any particular text into the theoretically unlimited succession of information they can display. The distinct identity that a particular cover conveys has been traded for a standardizing consistency that unifies everything displayed on a screen as data flowing in a broader stream. Music has undergone a similar transition: While album covers still survive as onscreen companions to digital listening, they have moved from the center of the experience to its periphery. Like the envelope icon that still represents email, album covers have shrunken into stylized reminders of what the technology you’re currently using is making obsolete."
"Years ago, Amazon’s “1-click” purchasing option seemed to remove all remaining friction from online shopping, but there was still a long way to go. The company’s more recent initiatives respond to deeper psychological friction that might prevent us from purchasing a product using Amazon’s platform. In a reprise of what happened a century ago, manufacturing and distribution have again progressed to a point where the customer is the greatest constraint on commerce. A single-click purchase still requires opening Amazon’s website or app, but people spend plenty of time away from their device screens. The Amazon Echo and other Alexa-enabled devices, placed throughout our homes like furniture, connect more directly to our supposedly subconscious impulses by letting us simply speak our desires and translating those words into Amazon orders. We might change our minds by the time we get around to opening an app, after all."
"Amazon’s true objective, it seems, is a full infiltration of the world rather than ongoing refinement of a walled garden confined to the internet. Instead of scaring its customers with its totalizing ambition, the company has successfully marketed this arrangement as desirable. To permanent customers, further gains in convenience, choice, price, and delivery speed are pure benefits. If life is meant to be a series of consumer experiences, they might as well happen as seamlessly as possible."