The Politics of Punctualization and Depunctualization in the Digital Advertising Alliance (DAA)
Forthcoming in Communication Review.
28 Pages Posted: 18 May 2015
Date Written: May 16, 2015
Drawing on actor-network theory (ANT), this essay explores the politics of punctualization and depunctualization by closely examining the Digital Advertising Alliance (DAA), an online advertising and marketing trade consortium. I will argue that the DAA is an association of these seven organizations and their heterogeneous online advertising practices, dedicated to a strategy of extending and maintaining the power of advertising in the political economy of the Internet. In support of that argument, and in line with ANT scholarship, I will trace some of the associating work the DAA does in order to cohere and maintain itself as a unified organization. However, I will also argue that the DAA often deploys multiplicity and heterogeneity in service to its overall associating practices. In other words, simply tracing association, simplification, and coherence will not be enough to explain the DAA's success; I will have to consider the DAA's use of complexity and seeming incoherence as tactics in support of its overall cohering strategy. To do this work, I will deploy two concepts from Actor-Network Theory, punctualization and depunctualization, as key lenses through which to see the shifting contours of the Digital Advertising Association as it confronts other actor-networks. I will illustrate this with three specific moments of simplification and heterogeneity associated with the DAA: the use of spokespeople, a cookie-based opt-out system, and a small triangular logo. To explore these three moments, I will closely read press releases, legislative testimony, and the architectural and technical structures of the DAA and DAA-member Web sites, as well as draw on the scholarly literature on online advertising, human-computer interaction, and standards consortia. My ultimate argument is that ANT scholarship must consider how organization is just as much about deploying heterogeneity as it is about cohering into durable singularity.
Keywords: Digital Advertising Alliance, punctualization, depunctualization, actor-network theory
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