Consumer Databases and the Commercial Mediation of Identity: An Investigation into Consumer-Corporate Relationship Building Under Neoliberalism

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This paper examines the strategic development of consumer-corporate relationships through the growing use of consumer databases. Databases, as key mediators in this relationship, are responsible for intensifying the commercial mediation of identity that has followed the spread of neoliberalism. As marketers strive to target, uncover, or create new markets for goods they are increasingly reliant on consumer databases to help identify prospective consumers, or deepen existing relationships. This process involves both collecting and analyzing a wide range of personal information, and often invasive forms of demographic and psychographic profiling. Despite widespread privacy concerns, privately controlled consumer databases have become a highly lucrative industry in the United State. Their growing accessibility to corporations and marketers alike has spurred new strategies and literature devoted to exploiting these data resources. Specifically, theories of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and Organizational Learning have become dominant corporate strategies highly reliant on consumer databases. Consumer databases now act as nodal points in corporate strategies that are increasingly global in scope. By using the works of Canadian communication scholar Harold Innis and French post-structuralist Michel Foucault, this paper will examine forms of knowledge-power defining contemporary relationships between individuals and corporations.


Keywords: Consumer Databases, Neoliberalism, Surveillance, Innis, Foucault, Marketing
Stream: Knowledge and Technology
Presentation Type: Virtual Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.


Vincent Manzerolle

Doctoral Candidate, Faculty of Information and Media Studies, University of Western Ontario
London, Ontario, Canada

My research focuses on the relationship between surveillance and identity. I am interested in the relationship between knowledge and power as they are mediated by new technologies shaping the relationship between individuals and insitutions. In particular, I have focused on routine forms of corporate and marketing surveillance that have become a part of daily life under contemporary capitalism. My M.A. thesis focused on the contradictions at the heart of neoliberalism suggesting consumer freedom and empowerment comes out of increasing data surveillance (dataveillance) and the "free flow" of personal information within the marketplace. Theoretically, my research draws from a wide variety of thinkers across disciplinary (and continental) lines. I am constantly trying to integrate/negotiate both the materialism of political economy and the discourse analysis of post-structuralism. Key thinkers include; Canadian communication scholar Harold Innis, French post-structuralist Michel Foucaul, and marxist-geographer David Harvey.

Ref: T08P0027