Back home in one of the bars in my local, there was no women’s toilet (this was the mid-80s). The few women who did frequent the smoke room, had to go outside, in all kinds of weather, to the single female toilet in the other bar. At the same time an old school down the road still had signs showing the separate boys’ and girls’ entrances. Society remains divided in many ways, not only in gender. One of the most obvious, yet at the same time, nefarious, regards consumer preference.
Platforms (or are they publishers?), such as Facebook and Twitter, provide their services for free on the basis that its users give away great amounts of personal information. So we now have individual profiling to “guide” us in our purchase choices. You know how it works; you may have been browsing holidays online, then when searching a news item for example, adverts pop up with specific holiday options. Business relies on stereotypes and certainty; such a social contract gives them that. So whilst there is a feeling that the Internet enables free expression, the template-nature of such social media platforms constrains heterogeneity. One of the early pioneers of web development and now critic of its outcomes, Jaron Lanier believes: “The basic problem is that web 2.0 tools are not supportive of democracy by design. They are tools designed to gather spy-agency-like data in a seductive way, first and foremost, but as a side effect they tend to provide software support for mob-like phenomena.”
In the service sector, this translates into splicing customers in different ways according to the data gathered. We are all valued by them, it’s just some are more valued than others – they would claim it is just differently. For example, supermarkets use terms such as “everyday value” or ‘basics’ ranges, to the more ‘upper’ ‘taste the difference’ & ‘you’ve never had it so good’ products. Travel firms have always done such stratification, albeit quite basically – first & second class, or economy, business, first class when it comes to flying. (more…)