The new plantation

From The Attention Merchants (2016) by Tim Wu:

Ultimately, the public had struck a grand bargain with Facebook – not exactly knowingly, but not with full cognizance either. Having been originally drawn to Facebook with the lure of finding friends, no one seemed to notice that this new attention merchant had inverted the industry’s usual terms of agreement. Its billions of users worldwide were simply handing over a treasure trove of detailed demographic data and exposing themselves to highly targeted advertising in return for what, exactly? The newspapers had offered reporting, CBS had offered I Love Lucy, Google helped you find your way on the information superhighway. But Facebook?

Well, Facebook gave you access to your “friends.” And now, much of the energy formerly devoted to blogs or other online projects was now channeled into upgrading one’s Facebook profile and, with it, the value of Facebook itself. In this way, the public became like renters willingly making extensive improvements to their landlord’s property, even as they were made to look at advertisements. Facebook’s ultimate success lay in this deeply ingenious scheme of attention arbitrage, by which it created a virtual attention plantation.

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