The Effects of Influence

April 2, 2024

Weaponizing the Digital Influence Machine:" by Ghosh and Scott.

Facilitation Reading

Chapter 19: The Transformation of Value


How does the commodification of digital spaces and personal data in online advertising technologies contribute to the alienation of individuals in modern society?

AI & The New Economy

Lecture Notes

How does the commodification of digital spaces and personal data in online advertising technologies contribute to the alienation of individuals in modern society?

My Notes


  • Brief overview of the concept of alienation in Marxist theory.
  • Introduction to the day's topic: How digital technologies, especially online advertising and social media, contribute to modern forms of alienation.

Part 1: Understanding Digital Influence and Advertising

  • Key Reading Overview: "Weaponizing the Digital Influence Machine: The Political Perils of Online Ad Tech"
    • The paper discusses how online advertising technologies not only sell products but also ideas and influences, shaping public opinion and behavior.
    • Highlight the role of personal data in powering these advertising technologies, leading to targeted and personalized ad experiences.

Part 2: The Concept of Alienation in Digital Spaces

  • Marx's Perspective: Drawing parallels from "Capital" Vol 1 - Chapter 15
    • Discuss how Marx viewed the impact of machinery and industrialization on workers' alienation.
    • Analogize this to the digital realm: How do modern digital technologies, similar to machinery in the industrial age, lead to new forms of alienation?

Part 3: Real-World Implications and Legal Challenges

  • Supplemental Material Overview: "Social Media Victims Lawyer Up with Laura Marquez-Garrett"
    • Discuss the podcast's insights into the legal battles against social media platforms.
    • Focus on how these legal challenges reveal the extent of alienation and manipulation within digital platforms.

Part 4: Surveillance Capitalism and Digital Dualism

  • Explain the concept of Surveillance Capitalism and its role in commodifying personal data.
  • Discuss Digital Dualism and its contribution to a sense of alienation in digital and real-life interactions.

Part 5: The Echo Chamber Effect

  • Explore how digital platforms can create echo chambers, reinforcing alienation and detachment from broader societal perspectives.

Part 6: Critical Discussion and Reflection

  • Engage students in a discussion based on the key question.
  • Encourage students to reflect on their own experiences with digital media and how it might relate to the concept of alienation.


  • Summarize the key points discussed in the lecture.
  • Emphasize the importance of understanding the political and economic implications of digital media in the context of alienation.

Key Terms

  1. Digital Dualism: The concept that online and offline are separate and distinct realities. Digital dualism can contribute to a sense of alienation as individuals navigate these different realms.
  2. Echo Chamber: A situation in which beliefs are amplified or reinforced by communication and repetition inside a closed system, often occurring on digital social platforms. This can contribute to a sense of isolation and detachment from broader society.
  3. Alienation (review): A concept in Marxist theory referring to the estrangement of people from aspects of their human nature as a consequence of living in a society stratified into social classes. The term is also used in a broader sense to describe the detachment of individuals from each other and society due to the structures of capitalist economies.

To Read

"Weaponizing the Digital Influence Machine: The Political Perils of Online Ad Tech" by Dipayan Ghosh and Ben Scott.

To Watch

Social Media Victims Lawyer Up with Laura Marquez-Garrett

Social media was humanity’s ‘first contact’ moment with AI. If we’re going to create laws that are strong enough to prevent runaway AI from destroying our societies, we could benefit from taking a look at the major lawsuits against social media platforms that are playing out in our courts right now.

Student Facilitation

Marx's "Capital" Vol 1 - Chapter 19

Student Facilitation Questions

The Impact of Wage Labor on Individual Autonomy: Chapter 19 of "Capital" discusses how the wage-labor system impacts workers' lives. How does this concept parallel the influence of online advertising technologies on individual autonomy and decision-making in the digital space?

Commodification of Personal Data: In "Capital" Chapter 19, Marx talks about the commodification of labor. How can we relate this to the commodification of personal data in the realm of digital advertising? Discuss in the context of Ghosh and Scott's work on the political perils of online ad tech.

Alienation in Digital Spaces: Drawing from Marx's concept of alienation in Chapter 19, how does the manipulation of personal data for targeted advertising contribute to a new form of alienation in digital spaces?

Legal and Ethical Implications of Digital Influence: Considering Marx's analysis of the legal structures supporting capitalist systems in Chapter 19, how do current legal battles against social media platforms (as discussed in the podcast with Laura Marquez-Garrett) highlight the need for new legal frameworks in the digital economy?

To Do