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Paying Attention: Big Data and Social Advertising as Barriers to Ecological Change

Natural Resource Sciences, McGill University, 845 Rue Sherbrooke Ouest, Montreal, QC H3A 0G4, Canada
Sustainability 2020, 12(24), 10589; https://doi.org/10.3390/su122410589
Received: 26 November 2020 / Revised: 15 December 2020 / Accepted: 16 December 2020 / Published: 18 December 2020
(This article belongs to the Special Issue A Research Agenda for Ecological Economics)
Big data and online media conglomerates have significant power over the behavior of individuals. Online platforms have become the largest canvas for advertising, and the most profitable commodity is users’ attention. Large tech companies, such as Facebook and Alphabet, use historically effective psychological advertisement tactics in tandem with enormous amounts of user data to effectively and efficiently meet the needs of their customers, who are not the end-users, but the corporations competing for advertising space on users’ screens. This commodification of attention is a serious threat to socio-ecological sustainability. In this paper, I argue that big data and social advertising platforms, such as Facebook, use commodified attention to take advantage of psycho-social neuroticisms and commodity fetishism in modern individuals to perpetuate conspicuous consumption. They also contribute to highly fragmented information ecologies that intentionally obscure scientific facts regarding ecological emergencies. The commitment to stakeholders and growth economics makes social advertising conglomerates a significant barrier to a socio-ecological future. I provide a series of solutions to this problem at the institutional, research, policy, and individual levels and areas for future sustainability research. View Full-Text
Keywords: big data; commodified attention; terror management theory; individualization; disembedding; advertising big data; commodified attention; terror management theory; individualization; disembedding; advertising
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MDPI and ACS Style

Kish, K. Paying Attention: Big Data and Social Advertising as Barriers to Ecological Change. Sustainability 2020, 12, 10589. https://doi.org/10.3390/su122410589

AMA Style

Kish K. Paying Attention: Big Data and Social Advertising as Barriers to Ecological Change. Sustainability. 2020; 12(24):10589. https://doi.org/10.3390/su122410589

Chicago/Turabian Style

Kish, Kaitlin. 2020. "Paying Attention: Big Data and Social Advertising as Barriers to Ecological Change" Sustainability 12, no. 24: 10589. https://doi.org/10.3390/su122410589

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