Patrick Vonderau is Professor of Media and Communication Studies at the Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg. During a visit to the Leibniz Institute for Media Research, he will give a lecture on his current research project:
"Clicks, Likes and Guns: The German 'Like Economy'"
Reports of fake views, fake followers, or identity theft have been on the news regularly since the 2016 election of the U.S. president. This includes the suspicion that the "like economy" (Gerlitz/Helmond 2013) of the Internet would be systematically devalued by shadow economic structures. Academic and journalistic representations have looked at these either as a form of legally unauthorized online marketing or as exploitative digital work and have mostly turned their attention to the global South. The focus is on click farms: the image of digital sweatshops in which employees or freelancers are paid to appear under false names with likes, followers or views through manual work, software management or a combination of both (Casilli 2016; 2017; Ong/Cabanes 2018).
The lecture examines procedures, actors and processes involved in the production of likes and followers in Germany. It presents an interdisciplinary research project, Shadow Economies of the Internet: An Ethnography of Click Farming (2018-2020), funded by Vetenskapsrådet/The Swedish Research Council, conducted by Vonderau together with social anthropologist Johan Lindquist (University of Stockholm).
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