Sites refers to the social media websites themselves. Drawing on neoliberal rhetoric of “market competition,” the first part of this study looks at social media platform design in the context of the neoliberal business model. I use the concept of “data determinism” to look at the dialectical relationship between the economy and technology, and how it drives innovation in platform design. Social media companies compete to produce the greatest amount of user data, which they depend upon for profitability. This part of the project involves learning about the relationship between the drive to maximize the extraction of users’ data and decisions about platform design. What are the design decisions used to encourage continuous and active participation? What strategies do platform designers employ to keep users engaged, thereby maximizing competitive quantities of data?

Attached to this question about platform design is also one about the role of data analytics. Specifically, I look at the kinds of discourses that are used when analyzing user data. Understanding the discourses of data analytics can offer helpful insights into the kinds of participation that sites deem as valuable. It can also help us to better understand the motivations behind platform updates, as well as the ties between the use of social media and the normalization of specific behavioural patterns and practices of subjectivization. What kind of user do sites deem to be ideal? With this question in mind, the project aims at discovering something more broadly about how the values of neoliberalism are translated into practices of representation on social media. How does the platform represent neoliberal ideology?