IDENTITY & TECHNO-UTOPIANISM.A Critical Discourse Analysis of Marketing Material and their Sociotechnical Imaginaries
Abstract: This research paper sets out to investigate the messaging present in a corpus of textsgathered from Acxiom’s, an American data-analysis and ‘Identity Solutions’-company,website. The paper applies a framework of Critical Discourse Analysis informed by Theo vanLeeuwen’s theory of ‘legitimations’ and analyses the findings through the theoreticalframework of ‘Sociotechnical Imaginaries’. Greater emphasis is placed on the theoreticalframework, in the hopes of allowing a greater insight into the ideological underpinnings ofthe corpus. The paper looks at five broad categories of inductively identified discourses inthe texts; the neo-liberal market economy, privacy, identity structure, techno-utopianism,and the naming conventions/usage of biological terms carried out by Acxiom.This is undertaken with the aim of answering the question: ‘What discourses are presentin the texts, and to what extent do they extol the virtues of techno-utopianism?’ After theempirical analysis, the project will pivot to focus especially on the underlying techno-utopianelements and discursive positions which Acxiom assume in the texts. The analysis will befocusing on the techno-utopian elements, and Acxiom’s own conception of identity, as itexists both inside and outside of its system, to show how the texts analysed contain a greatstarting point for attempting to trace an outline of the imaginary disseminated throughAcxiom’s system.Additionally, through engaging in a legitimation-based critical discourse analysis, thisstudy aims to examine the power structures implicit in the texts. It diagnoses how Acxiomconstructs not only their own position, but also that of their clients, and the consumers whichare categorised in said system. Through doing so, the project looks at the role of a dataanalysiscompany working largely unseen in today’s data-driven landscape of marketingand communication in order to ensure that corporate communications remain targeted andrelevant at the potential cost of reifying and maintain prior power relations in society.Additionally, the project looks at the imaginary, the vision of a preferable future, constructedby Acxiom and critically analyses how it contains elements that misinterprets the role andfunction of ‘identity’ and reshapes it into an algorithmic abstraction, away from its roots inindividuals’ ‘real’ lived lives. Through activating the idea of said ‘imaginary’ the projectshows how futures that are envisioned run the risk of being subsumed into the technology ofthose that control it.Therefore, the project will through an empirical element, draw out the theoretical andideological underpinnings of a major actor in the sphere of data-analysis and identitysolutions.
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