Digital Data at work

A critical analysis of the relationship between social media and its users.

Image credit (Ravi Sharma)

The uits team are strong advocates of technology and appreciate all forms of improvement it brings to the wider society and our personal everyday lives.

Who would have ever imagined the lives we live now without the digital expansion that occurred to our lives after the birth of the internet?


All this new found knowledge available at our fingertips, connected with the whole world… unimaginable … but like all things it is important to be aware of all aspects, both pros and cons, that are involved when engaging with the tools of the internet.


We came across an interesting article, ‘Ownership of Content in Your Digital Life – Social Media’ by Jason Cheung, first published in 2018, that touches upon important points around our digital ownership when using social media. Below is an abstract from the article, we feel it’s worth the time to read, pause and think about your interactions with social and digital media.

Don’t forget to leave a comment below with your thoughts.

Most social media users are content with their relationship with social sharing platforms, as long as the service is uninterrupted.
They get to share their lives, see their friend’s stories, and even make comments.
However, a critical analysis of the relationship between social media and its users may change the perspective about the content that is passed between ourselves and the platforms we use.

What is considered user content, what user data?
Everything from text, photos, images, or videos created and shared can be considered content.
Data is created by the act of a user browsing a website, such as their web traffic data that includes their browser type, public IP address, time logs, and cookies.
Typically a user has full authorship and copyrights of content, it’s better to check the terms of service to know to which extent, while data is not authored, or ‘owned’ by a user.

In 1980 Alvin Toffler writes ‘The third wave’.
He coined the term Prosumer: a person who is “part of a new ‘wikinomic’ model where businesses put consumers to work” (Ritzer & Jurgenson, 2010, p.17). Prosumption is the natural evolution of Marxist capitalism, as capital requires continuous growth to capture additional surplus value.

Although some users may be indifferent to the prosumer mode of production that exists within social media sites, others may choose to reassess their relationship with these platforms, especially after a review of the terms and conditions that outline the ownership of user generated content within these platforms. An understanding of a social media platform’s political economy can help users make better judgement as to which, if any, platforms on which they choose to be a prosumer.

From a look at the Terms of Service of the most popular social media platforms in the world, while ownership of content might not seem the problem, the licensing and processing of your data could. Profiling data is created by the social media platforms themselves to increase the accuracy of their profile data about your specific demographics, including your likes, dislikes, habits, wants, and expectations; these are data that are sold to third party firms.

All users have a choice to not participate in this information exchange by electing to not engage with platforms that commodify user generated data.

Read the entire Article from the University of Columbia website, Ownership of Content in Your Digital Life – Social Media By Jason Cheung on July 9, 2018