Social media and self-evalua­ting assembla­ges: on numbers, orde­rings and values (2014)


This paper takes tools of self-valuation in social media as an empirical focus. By way of a case-study of Klout, an influential measure of influence, we suggest that the forms of reactivity and self-fulfilling prophecy that have been identified as a problem with some forms of measurement are actually an intentional effect of such tools: that is, the measurements that such tools produce are not designed to capture a separate reality, but are deliberately employed to modify the activity that they themselves invite. In other words, they expect and exploit reactivity. We suggest that such media are indicative of the rise in what might be called participative metrics of value. We further suggest that the capacity to evaluate and modify the self that Klout affords is intricately tied up with the agency and (self-)valuation of Klout as a tool itself. An intermediate layer of the argument is that this tying up is achieved through the production of numbers as specific kinds of ‘enumerated entities’. We use this term to draw attention to the ways in which numbers are never simply abstractions, but always have specific material-semiotic properties. In this case, we show that these properties are tied to the use of media-specific operations, and that these properties, including those of inclusion and belonging, inform how Klout participates in particular kinds of ordering and valuation. We thus explore the interlinked movement of numbers, media, and value in social media as a kind of dynamic assemblage.


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Gerlitz, Carolin / Celia Lury (2014): „Social media and self-evaluating assemblages: on numbers,
orderings and values“, in: Distinktion: Scandinavian Journal of Social Theory 15, S. 174–188.