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Friction-free authenticity: mobile social networks and transactional affordances
journal contributionposted on 09.05.2021, 22:00 by V Manzerolle, Michael Daubs
This paper contextualizes and critically examines the incorporation of transactional features into two popular mobile social media apps: Instagram and Snapchat. It examines how mobile social media acts as an interface between culture and commerce. We situate this interface within a larger political economic context in which tech companies are embracing ‘fintech’ to drive growth. We argue that mobile social media platforms play a unique role in monetising personal data and context awareness through their development of ‘transactional affordance’ – a term we develop to understand new features allowing users to connect content to forms of payment. We argue that the success of these affordances is tied to labour associated with the ‘performative authenticity’ of social-media influencers. Our first case study examines the recent development of ‘shopping’ and ‘checkout’ features on Instagram, and the significance of this feature for the economic growth of parent company Facebook. We then look at how the specific development of augmented reality features on Snapchat serve as the basis for new transactional affordances in everyday contexts. We conclude the paper by arguing that the contextual commerce these phenomena entail signals a shift to a transactional culture in which everyday interactions become opportunities for consumption.