From the Fordist Phone to Neoliberal Facebook: Standardizing New Media Practices

Ilana Gershon
Dept. of Communication and Culture
Indiana University

This past February, a Moroccan employee of oDesk leaked Facebook’s operation manual for content managers. The manual detailed what could and could not be shown on Facebook to employees who had been hired to scan daily thousands and thousands of photographs and posts. Yet the employees were not told that it was Facebook which was outsourcing this task, although most guessed accurately which company was behind the manual and their jobs. Why the secrecy? Companies operating under Fordist capitalism would not have concealed their efforts at monitoring content. In this talk, I explore how changes in capitalism have led to changes in standardization, and in particular, in the ways that new media practices are standardized. I discuss how neoliberal companies now standardize practices given that their primary concern is with turning information, all information, into a commodity. In short, I compare how Fordist capitalism and neoliberal capitalism encourage different techniques for standardizing practices, inspire different types of actors to be involved in standardizing, and foster attempts at standardization at different moments in people’s adoption and use of new media.