18 Art in the Corporatized Sphere: The Impact of Commercial Social Media on Online Artistic Practice

Kyle Chayka

Imagine ads being sold on a Mark Rothko canvas—sponsorships, perhaps, stuck discreetly to a corner of the canvas. It is not unthinkable; after all, artworks get a lot of eyeballs, and that audience is not getting monetized as much as it could be.

These days the empty buzzword “content” is used as a shorthand for referring to any kind of media published on the Internet in the form of text, images, or video. Content that gets more attention, in terms of page views, is more “valuable” because it commands a larger audience. The audience drawn by this content is sold to advertisers in packages of a thousand impressions per banner ad at a time; commercial brands buy eyeballs. This most clearly applies to editorial operations like blogs: articles draw readers, and readers are turned into capital in return.

This also holds true for today’s massive social media platforms. Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr all make profits by selling advertising that reaches the millions of users active on their domains. Every piece of content we, as users, manufacture for the social networks draws ever more viewers, users, and impressions, which generates more capital for the business.

Though the suggestion of placing advertising on a canvas in the Museum of Modern Art sounds a little ridiculous, it is a distinctly threatening possibility in the context of the content-capital machines of ...

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