A sense of em- powerment and freedom pervades the ini- tiation of contacts on the Internet due to the fact that anonymity is guaranteed and users can control the amount of informa- tion that is divulged. This transformation of social relationships into commercial relationships has a dual character. Are we happy to have the palpations of our heart reduced to a strategy of risk management and traded according to an increasingly sophisticated algorithm which also harvests our data? No company, product, or process is untouched by it. When your personal information or information about your behavior is sold for marketing or another purpose, it is not the individual person that is being sold but your constituent elements; your interests, characteristics, communications, behaviors, and habits. Internet dating has turned social relationships — which were once seen as part of the public good and defined by their use value meeting people, finding partners, sharing photos, etc. Individual profiles may be constructed but data points far outweigh actual individuals; your interests and proclivities are packaged up and sold as asset streams on yet another marketplace that is increasingly coming to resemble the particularities of financial markets. And here we come to the crux of the matter. Fans of Internet dating will point to the happily married couple at the end of the table and challenge you to say ill of the thing that brought them together. And as a result of all this trading the algorithm improves; your chances of a better match improve: But the point is not to cast aspersion on the love borne from Internet dating or smart phone apps, but to see Internet dating as part of a broader project of the financialized self. The company who bought access to your repayments now holds the risk of your default. Most of the interviewees spend a lot of time chatting online and this builds up the bonds that act as a pre- cursor to meeting offline. The initiation of the first conversation is considered one of the most difficult parts of developing romance online. Several inform- ants confessed that they were emboldened to ask questions that they might not oth- erwise ask in real life. Are we merely in a new phase of Mr.
Most of the interviewees spend a lot of time chatting online and this builds up the bonds that act as a pre- cursor to meeting offline. Thus the online and offline envi- ronments need to work in tandem for suc- cessful relationship building. This leads to conversations late at night that become increasingly flirtatious. And while these products and processes often appear mystifying, they contain some important unifying features. Since, the price of hay on the market fluctuates on a daily basis, it may skyrocket and put the farmer at risk of bankruptcy. Meanwhile over at eHarmony the whole edifice is gleefully revealed: The square is circled when we realize that for banks, too, our happily ever after is good business. And as a result of all this trading the algorithm improves; your chances of a better match improve: Given the importance of the imagination in arousing romantic feelings for another, some informants inevitably found their imaginations running riot at the prospect of actually meeting someone offline, and not always in a positive way. First, the thing being traded — the key currency determining each transaction — is risk. So just as capital has developed the financial products to trade in, and profit from, risk, so too, does it have an interest in measuring and managing risk across the entirety of the system that is composed of individuals. Will your next dating app contain a credit-rating filter? It gives the farmer the right to buy a set amount of feed at a set price at a set date in the future, safe in the knowledge that she has locked in a certain price for this crucial input. And so you sit and swipe, and sit and swipe, engaged in an elaborate system of matching, risking, and hedging. The construction company no longer simply trades in bricks and mortar but must have a position on foreign currency fluctuations and mortgage repayments and even the weather. Many derivatives offer the ability to lock in future prices as a means to manage risk. Grindr for sexual preference, Tinder for looks, Ashley Madison for extra-marital affairs, Guardian Soulmates for walking and the novels of Balzac. The online en- vironment is used for flirtatious behaviour, early courtship, followed by development of bonds and the establishment of sufficient trust to meet offline. Corporations which produce commodities seemingly completely unrelated to finance such as General Motors are involved in complicated balance sheet management, creating liquid, securitized asset streams from physical commodities, buying and selling risk on financial markets. The emergence of tradable products like derivatives — including things like options, swaps, futures, asset-backed securities — and processes such as securitization have been central not only to the explosion of new financial markets and their associated trades but also opens up questions about who is left holding the risks for the system as a whole. The farmer and Verizon are trying to manage their risks, to not be exposed to default and failure — to have a safe position in the market. The way to achieve this is to trade in the new financial products. This transformation of social relationships into commercial relationships has a dual character. To only engage in a single conversation with a sole potential suitor is a dangerous game. The market, particularly during the early days of capitalism, was expanded physically — boundaries were geographically stretched by sail ship, colonial whip and surveyor stick; but the market was also extended through the reconfiguration of relationships and cultural practices toward the extraction of value and profit. Rafferty and Bryan argue that workers can easily lose out in this game of risk.
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