Klout isn’t only measuring us, it’s assessing us. It’s designed on behaviorist principles, with rewards and virtual pats on the head when we — ratlike, often not entirely sure what we did to warrant the praise — succeed on the terms its algorithm values, and framing losses in score with banners that proclaim, “Oh no! Your Klout has fallen -1 in the past 2 days!”
We are highly conditionable beings. Klout is conditioning us to care about Klout, and to value ourselves — in the identity economy of social media — in terms of it. It works to devalue the nature of many social media communities, particularly those whose networks and relationships aren’t based entirely in use value.
In the new Klout, I now get notices along the bottom of my screen about which of my contacts have gone down in score recently: in case I want to dump them, I assume, like dead weight. Bye, Mom! Farewell, shy cousin Ernie! Adios, infrequent Twitter user! It’s all business.
Social media wasn’t intended to be all business, especially business as usual. Social media is relational: Part of its phenomenal success is that it’s enabled people to connect on terms far beyond those of use-value networking.
But because Klout rewards use-value networking over other forms of engagement, it fosters an increasingly use-value environment. The peer-to-peer relationality of social media is undermined by the kind of behavior that cultivates status over relationships. Status is part of the game. But when it becomes the whole game, the broad, rhizomatic networks get boxed in and wither, and then we’re back to something a lot less interesting than social media. And like the new Google Reader, a lot less social.
Yes, there is a pattern here. We are gradually being directed away from sociality and toward businesslike behaviors by the business interests that design and profit from the platforms we use.
Social media, which was once a bit of a rogue blowing smoke at the establishment, is being taken in hand and given a tie and a briefcase. We’re like the rebel who’s been told s/he got the highest mark on a class test: We suddenly don’t know what to do with ourselves.
- Bonnie Stewart, Klout is bad for your soul
Stewart digs into Klout with real feeling, taking a highly detailed look at what social media ratings and rankings do to us, and it ain’t good.
- Klout’s Automatically Created Profiles Included Minors (nytimes.com)
- Out of Klout (nevillehobson.com)