The Manipulation of Meaning and the Commodification of Online Sociality

Churchill Club Top 10 Tech Trends Debate, May 25, 2011 | © Courtesy of Steve Jurvetson /Flickr.
Churchill Club Top 10 Tech Trends Debate, May 25, 2011 | © Courtesy of Steve Jurvetson /Flickr.

On October 10, 2018, Anu A. Harju and Ella Lillqvist have published an article entitled “Manipulating Meaning: Language and Ideology in the Commodification of Online Sociality” in Open Cultural Studies.

A Blog Post by Pablo Markin.


The main finding of Anu Harju and Ella Lillqvist about the manner in which ideology figures in social media is that “a revised interpretation of Marx’s ideology theory […] highlights the discursive and cognitive nature of ideological processes, […] by elaborating on the workings of ideology in the specific context of corporate social media.” This article also discusses “the notions of “relevance” and “cognitive illusion” […] [in the] context [of] manipulation, a concept that helps bring to focus the discursive obscuring of the capitalist operational logic of social media corporations.”

This paper intends, therefore, to “address the gap in research regarding ideology and language in the context of online commodification and highlight the discursive and cognitive dimensions of ideology.” According to these authors, “[i]n capitalism, personal worth is resolved into exchange value (Marx and Engels 12); this is an example of commodification, meaning transforming such things into commodities that were formerly outside of economic relationships and considered to have use value only (Mosco). This expansion of the domain of capital has also taken place in the online context where the social life of the users has been transformed into a marketable product and exchange value for the company.”

This article concludes that “[the] concept of context manipulation helps bring to focus the discursive obscuring of certain contexts and how power is implicated in this practice, raising the question of who benefits from such discursive practice and whose power it legitimates.” Harju and Lillqvist contend “that context manipulation functions as a discursive mechanism of ideological persuasion that exploits the inherent flaws in the human cognitive system.”

By Pablo Markin


Featured Image Credits: Churchill Club Top 10 Tech Trends Debate, May 25, 2011 | © Courtesy of Steve Jurvetson /Flickr.

Cite this article as: Pablo Markin, "The Manipulation of Meaning and the Commodification of Online Sociality," in Open Culture, 09/01/2019, https://oc.hypotheses.org/1964.

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