In I’m Not The Product, But I Play One On The Internet, Derek Powazek sets us straight on a few assumptions we may be labouring under.
“If you’re not paying for the product, you are the product.”
I don’t know who said it first, but the line has achieved a kind of supernatural resonance online. And for good reason – it describes a kind of modern internet company that provides a free service. These businesses are designed to aggregate a large number of users in order to sell that audience’s aggregate attention, usually in the form of advertising.
But the more the line is repeated, the more it gets on my nerves. It has a stoner-like quality to it (“Have you ever looked at your hands? I mean really looked at your hands?”). It reminds me of McLuhan’s “the medium is the message,” a phrase that is seemingly deep but collapses into pointlessness the moment you think about using it in any practical way.
Which he does, and now I’m not too sure.