Media as Data Extraction: Towards a New Map of a Transformed Communications Field

Privacy and Security, Networks, the Internet, and Cloud Computing, Internet, Media and Content and Search and Advertising

Article Snapshot


Nick Couldry and Joseph Turow


Journal of Communication, Vol. 68, No. 2, pp. 415-423, 2018


Increasingly, media narratives are associated with consumer data collection. Media is becoming more closely linked to economic transactions and structures.

Policy Relevance

Communications researchers should broaden their agenda to study the implications of data processing.

Main Points

  • Capitalism increasingly prioritizes the production of value from data derived from surveillance.
  • Traditionally, the term "media" described the distribution of narratives; communications researchers believed that:
    • The media exercised power through storytelling.
    • The media's storytelling role created society's superstructure.
    • Media stories were forms of mass communication, severable from audience response.
  • New advertising and data-processing practices require scholars to redefine media as the convergence of messaging technologies with surveillance technologies, which are in turn linked to everyday objects.
  • Advertisers do not simply seek consumers for goods or services, but create data profiles that enable individuals to be ranked in order of their value to sellers; this process of marketing through surveillance amounts to social discrimination.
  • Advertisers bid to reach individuals with specific characteristics, often in real time; click fraud and ad blocking complicate this market.
  • Increasingly, online surveillance methods are used by brick-and-mortar stores, which use apps to track consumers via their smartphones.
  • The transformation in media is fundamental; media are now deeply connected to society's economic structure, and society's base and super-structures have become more closely intertwined.

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