How Platforms OWN You (Disney+, Netflix, Uber) – Wisecrack Edition
Articles,  Blog

How Platforms OWN You (Disney+, Netflix, Uber) – Wisecrack Edition

Hey Wisecrack, Jared here.  You may have noticed a trend lately. It seems like every day, some company announces
a new cloud or platform service for people to download.  A few months ago Google announced its Google
Stadia game streaming platform, which will include YouTube integration, and allow gamers
to play games from most any screen with an internet connection.  The announcement was met with some excitement
from big game developers looking for new distribution deals… and… a lot of skepticism from gamers,
prompting eyerolls and also some questions like, what games will be available? Will people actually own their games or will
everything be subscription based? How will everyone’s data be used?  And what will happen when Google takes on
Sony, Nintendo, Microsoft… and popular PC gaming platforms like Steam? It’s not just gaming platforms that have
people asking questions, though.  “Platforms” and “subscription models”
are spreading like the plague. CBS has successfully forced nerds into submission
by requiring them to pay 5.99 a month for the privilege of watching Star Trek on their
“All-Access” platform.  Apple recently announced that devices will
be taking a backseat to game, news, and video subscriptions on a new Apple platform. And Disney, who already owns… a lot of things
… is launching Disney+, which will ask us to pay another subscription to watch things
that were once available on Netflix and a slate of new Marvel shows. And NBC has yet to launch their own streaming
service which will, again, steal The Office from Netflix. People seem annoyed that these services are
just another thing hankering to siphon a few bucks a month out of their pockets. But is there a deeper problem here? And is that problem platforms themselves? Maybe, maybe not, but for better or worse,
platforms are changing our entire economic system and I’m here to talk about how, why,
and what it all means.  Welcome to this Wisecrack Edition on the platform
economy.  Today we’re surrounded by platforms. A Platform is a website or application that
brings two or more sides of a market together, that is, a digital space where people who
need a service can find and pay for that service. The earliest example is probably eBay. The site originally launched as AuctionWeb
in 1995, and created a platform for someone who wants to sell their autographed Marky
Mark underwear to an eager buyer, this is real by the way. After eBay’s success, other companies started
springing up with similar business models– Amazon originally connected book publishers
with readers –remember when amazon only sold books? Ticketmaster created an online space for venues
to sell tickets, and soon there were platforms for everything… now Uber, connects drivers
with passengers, AirBnB connects spare rooms with travelers, and Spotify, connects listeners
with music.  But let’s back up for a minute– how did
we even get here? Once upon a time before free markets, economies
were regionally based, and self contained. According to Political Economist Karl Polanyi,
there were three general types of economic systems:  Reciprocity, where goods are exchanged as
gifts between communities. For instance, a tribe gifts another tribe
a cow, and eventually gets one back later on in the year.  Householding, in which families produce food,
goods, and tools for their own use and consumption. And Redistribution, where a tribal leader
or feudal lord controls all the resources, and then redistributes them to members of
their society. Now remember this one, we’re going to come
back to it later.  In all of these, survival wasn’t really
based on how efficient production was. Sure, a crop may not grow well year over year,
but there were contingency plans such as storing crops, or minimal exchange on simple markets,
like bartering with your neighbor for what you need. But eventually capitalism happened, and the
rules changed. People became increasingly separated from
the things they needed to survive, turning to the market to get things like food, water,
and shelter, and selling their skills to whoever would pay.  By the late 1700s, industry was booming, and
manufacturing began to take over Europe. In 1776, Scottish economist Adam Smith published
An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, outlining the benefits
of efficient production and singing praises about how dope the free market is. And people liked his theories. The market eventually expanded, as standards
of living began to change, from bare essentials like food and clothes to luxury items. But having so many different sellers selling
all these things led to competitive pressures. If your goods were too expensive, no one would
buy them. So businesses started lowering production
costs so they could sell their items for less, while still maintaining enough profits.  Businesses have been lowering production costs
ever since, primarily by turning to technology, and lowering labor costs. Which was easy to do if you were in manufacturing
as technology got better and better, and you could pay less and less for labor.  It started with assembly lines, which provided
companies with cheaper labor that didn’t need to be trained in any special skills—
instead of learning how to put a whole car together, a worker just had to learn how to
put one piece of the car in one place.  Eventually, large business realized that robots
could do that instead of people, and since you don’t have to pay robots salaries, soon
some of these places barely had any employees at all.  But there were still businesses that couldn’t
really use assembly lines or robots to cut as many costs— places like grocery stores,
or taxi companies, or movie theaters. Until the internet came around.  Stores and service providers suddenly had
to compete with… websites, where you could get the same product or service mailed to
you directly from the distributor with the click of a button, or find a room in someone’s
house to sleep in instead of booking a hotel room. The owners of these new websites, these platforms,
don’t need to pay any labor costs because people doing the buying and selling are doing
it for them. In other words, Uber isn’t a taxi company,
it’s a technology company, that pairs an independently contracted driver with you,
the consumer. But even those independently contracted drivers
are a liability, as the company moves towards  driverless vehicles.  Okay, so now we understand how platforms happened,
but why are they making people so uneasy? Well, it might be because people are losing
their sense of autonomy and ownership. You know how I asked you to remember Karl
Polanyi’s redistribution, where one person controls and redistributes all the resources? Like a feudal lord? Well it’s because more and more, the way
platforms operate feels very similar to that kind of economy.  Tech companies own assets and distribute them
to us, and as a result, some have argued a new kind of feudalism has emerged.  One where companies are like lords, and subscribers
are like serfs paying rent to access some stuff. So if this is the case, will we all be indentured
to our platforms?  In his 2016 article Evgeny Morozov describes
the steady march of Google and Facebook toward feudal ownership over greater proportions
of the economy. By “[destroying] all competition and [making]
the world dependent on their platforms,” Morozov suggests these neo-feudal lords will
increase their control over how economic resources are accessed. Political theorist Nick Srnicek goes as far
as saying that these big companies are becoming “owners of the infrastructures of society…ending
private property for the masses and having everything provided as-a-service by quasi-monopolistic
firms.”  We don’t own stuff anymore, companies basically
lease everything to us, and at the moment these companies are all fighting with each
other over who gets to provide us with access to stuff that they control.  Instead of owning cars, people are taking
ride shares with changing prices generated by algorithms. Instead of owning CDs, we get our music from
Spotify, where it can be taken down.  And it gets even more complicated when these
different platforms start fighting each other over who has access to what.  Back in January Epic games announced an exclusivity
deal with Metro: Exodus just 2 weeks before the game’s launch– after many people had
already pre-ordered it on Steam– sparking backlash from Steam users, who wanted their
money back, and Steam itself, who wanted to sell the game. If you want to watch The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
you need an Amazon Prime subscription, if you want to watch Stranger Things you need
a Netflix subscription, if you want to watch Star Trek Discovery… well… hopefully you
can borrow a CBS all access password from your dad. But the point is people are shelling out money
to all these platforms for temporary access to a tv show instead of buying a box set. Remember when you just had to choose between
dvd and blu-ray? While it’s annoying enough to have 37 different
logins, and frustrating to use up hard drive space for some dumb software you only need
for one game there are pretty serious ramifications to these new ownership models. Last year farmers lost their right to repair
tractors and equipment they bought from John Deere. Under a new agreement, farmers can no longer
access or modify the source code of any farm equipment software, or change engine settings. They can’t even purchase repair parts without
going through an authorized dealer. Which you can find through their app.  This is a big deal for farmers, who have been
modifying and fixing their own equipment since forever. If an important piece of farm equipment breaks,
they can’t always afford to wait for a John Deere rep to come update their software for
them. And not being allowed to upgrade their tractors
means they can’t update their systems to meet future emissions requirements, which
means when standards change… they’ll have to buy a new tractor.  This isn’t new, it’s just spreading. Without software, our smartphones, which have
become pretty indispensable, are just fancy boxes. We lease that software. “Leasing software” isn’t anything new
either, as Microsoft pushes Office 365 subscriptions, or Adobe doing basically the same thing. And we’re at a point where we’re literally
advocating for laws so that we can fix things that we already own. The ‘right to repair’ movement has already
been picking up steam and appealing to the US government to address these issues.  So, as big companies like Apple and Google
and Disney take over platforms and buy everyone out, we might finally have fewer passwords
to memorize and fewer apps to purchase– but at what cost?  To put it bluntly: the cost is our data.  According to Srnicek, data “have become
increasingly central to firms and their relations with workers, customers, and other capitalists. Platforms became an efficient way to monopolize,
extract, analyze, and use the increasingly large amounts of data that were being recorded.”  So, while some of these businesses operate
by skimming off the top of sales, or charging subscription fees, a portion of their money
and success actually comes from collecting, using, and selling your information. And these platforms are being increasingly
integrated into our daily lives. Uber calculates fares based on information
coming in through the app, Spotify recommends new music based on an analysis of what you’ve
been listening to…  and then there are companies who are flat out selling information
for profit to third party data brokers… who forward it on to ad agencies, insurance
brokers, and anyone else who wants it. Kind of like how Rockefeller owned all the
oil, big tech companies monopolizing on data are starting to take over sections of the
economy, providing valuable services that people won’t stop paying for…and making
it difficult for anyone else to provide those services. What’s different is instead of controlling
physical resources, these businesses control our information and how its used. Netflix has so much information on people’s
viewing habits, they can keep recommending shows for people to watch so they’ll keep
their subscriptions active.  So it goes beyond selling your search history
to advertisers: companies use data to wield a huge amount of power when it comes to shaping
our consumption, or even the economy as a whole. Take Google Stadia. An article from Brian Feldman in the Intelligencer
points out that linking Stadia so closely with YouTube might create a feedback loop
of engagement metrics that could ultimately influence game-design choices. According to Feldman, “it’s not hard to
imagine a world in which the Stadia platform ends up wielding major, indirect influence
over what types of things game developers create and what YouTubers decide to stream.”  With everyone chasing trends, some game developers
might just end up creating cookie-cutter games that all look the same.  We see it with videos, like how when one watched
conspiracy theory videos, YouTube suggested more conspiracy videos, leading to an increase
in more conspiracy content, leading to more conspiracy theorists, who wanted more conspiracy
content. They’ve since fixed that, but you’re usually
only one Mukbang video away from the topic dominating your homepage.  But are we getting ahead of ourselves?  More than a century ago, policymakers were
confronted with a very similar problem, when people started using telephones. People owned their telephones, but they didn’t
own the system they were using to communicate. As people began to rely on telephones for
communication, phone companies turned into big unregulated monopolies. So, the government started placing restrictions
on the companies to keep them from exploiting consumers, allowing them to be monopolies,
but treating them as utilities. So maybe the federal trade commission will
do something similar with tech platforms… some policymakers even propose creating new
departments in government to oversee big platforms. While it’s still unclear what that will
look like, with Uber drivers striking to unionize and Mark Zuckerberg testifying before congress,
it seems like calls for intervention will only increase So what do you think? Are we destined for lives in the Matrix where
our data is extracted so big companies can profit trillions of dollars and dictate everything
we do with our time? Or will we find a middle ground where we live
harmoniously with our platforms in some kind of data-driven utopia? Let us know what you think. Thanks to all our patrons who support the
channel and our podcasts. Don’t forget to hit that subscribe button


  • sparkpenguin

    ughhh… this video made me wanna find "middle ground" at the bottom of a very tall building, very quickly, say at the speed of falling onto it.
    also i saw a few cable tv mentions, down below my comment; the reason going back to cable tv hell would be preferable to streaming palatform hell is there was not much choice involved apart from what channel to stay on. something was always already playing, visible to engage you. when i'm tired/indecisive nowadays (only time to watch tv) and i have to decide which thing to actually watch from the start, idk about you but i just ride the menu forever with nothing engaging already playing to actually stop the "surfing" behavior and just watch nothing. OR PUT ON MUSIC I ACTUALLY OWN which i realize puts me in a minority of people smart enough to have spent extra effort to retain my library (digitally or on CDs) over the past decade. seriously, i have nfi why anyone does a spotify? that what it's called? again, nfi. it sounded like a bad idea from the beginning. but that's not necessarily consumers' fault, their habits are shaped by an oppressive/suggestive market i know.
    the behavioral problems like choice overload seem petty but they're not. i'd go back to cable in a heartbeat if the alternative means eventually being stuck out in the cold when the streaming platform singularity occurs. …smaller personalized channel packages would be nice, though– but that sentence is older than i have been alive already.

  • Cullen Latham

    i notice it on youtube quite a bit. the site is always changing, and often not for the consumer's sake. for example, i used to get a decent variety of videos from subscriptions and new channels in my recommended, yet now it is filled with things closely related or from the same channel as the last video i watch. if i continue to watch the recommended content, all variety disappears from my recommended. it has gotten to the point where i question what the point of subscribing to a channel even is on the consumer side, as they will then show up less frequently in my recommended. They add the bell, but it notifies you of more than just video uploads, and people dont always subscribe to a channel because they enjoy EVERYTHING they produce. I think it begins to show the issue in question just with the small scale provided. no longer are they showing stuff for the sake of the consumer, but for the sake of the company behind the product. The more channels you watch on youtube, the more money the site gets…

  • Guest Informant

    Plenty of others have said it but this is why piracy has important political and economic elements – although it is wrapped up in people wanting something for nothing. It's a kind of battleground between the monopolistic, power-corrupted, strong-arm greed of Big Tech, and the greed, selfishness, self-indulgence of the individual who wants films, "tv" and music, entertainment, but doesn't want to pay for it. Maybe support creators through Patreon, and by buying their music for instance, and pirate the rest. For now.

  • Saksham Jaiswal

    This is just the downside of capitalism.
    And it makes sense as well,
    why should disney allow netflix to use its product when it thinks that it could do the same job and 'cash in' all the profit. Obviously, for now, netflix is a better distributor but u only get ahead if u take risks(even its not that big of a risk for disney). Cutting out the middle man will always be the main objective of creators or else finding the most efficient middle man.

  • mamaood

    Coming from manufacturing background with knowledge of the automotive industry, let me tell you cars are not a good example. Calibrations and dangerous tasks (i.e. welding and cutting metal, painting ) are robotized; know-how and delicate tasks are not. And also workers do need to be highly trained, because it's never just one item they need to put in place.

  • Excellent Atom

    Platform overload is going to bring back the pirate days. It starts with pirating 1 thing, because you don’t wanna get an extra platform. Then you see how easy that was & keep doing it. The more ppl who do it the easier it will become over all and the moral implications will get pushed aside. Right now pretty much only older ppl pay for cable. If the things young ppl want to enjoy become too expensive, it’ll be only older people paying for streaming services.
    It’s all cyclical. Streaming providers will get big & full of themselves like cable companies. They’ll act like the customer needs them rather than the other way around. Then the market will show them why that’s a bad idea.

  • Erylaria

    Well. Back to piracy it is then, I guess. I got a Netflix subscription because it was EASY. It had (almost) everything with one login for 7,99/month. I'm not about to pay more money for stuff that was previously, or should now be, on netflix. Plus, I can't even access cbs services over here in europe because of fucking geoblocking. I'm not getting a vpn to pay cbs money, that's absurd. There's other ways of watching. And then I'll wait for the dvd box, if they're even still going to make one…

  • Tom McLaughlin

    The deeper problem here is that you keep showing your face. Please stop. You are not interesting to look at. Great voice, but I can't look at you.

  • Erik Wedin

    The "Platforms" of the internet-age are like Star Wars. No matter how much money you have pumped in for quality content you own nothing and they will get greedy.

  • thejinxedone

    All the more reason for reimagining our future: the economic system must fundamentally evolve. with platorms becoming commons – public utilities. sooner the better.

  • Stormone

    I'd just buy my tractor from another company, or decide not to watch a TV show because they've made it too difficult for me to access. Holy fuck, it's almost as if capitalism has already found a way to balance it out when companies start to take the piss. Click bait, panic porn video.

  • EqualsThreeable

    As we age as a population more of us are aware of this data mining phenomenon. So much so that we can use our eyes like currency. Since piracy is impossible to defeat, the market can self regulate. We can look at cars, car design, car prices and brands variety as a comparison for streaming content, layout, price and number of streaming services. Where the individual cars are shows and the the car brand is the streaming services name. Multiple streaming services can be owned by one company. For example, GM owns Chevrolet, GMC & Cadillac.

    So we can see, yes cookie cutter shows/games will be even more prevalent. However don’t test the markets willingness to seek out original or unique games & shows.

  • B-Rex

    This is why when I really care about being able to watch a movie or series, I get the Blu Ray or DVD whenever available. I don't want to feel the way I did when Netflix pulled Doctor Who ever again.

  • Alicia Nyblade

    "Just like Rockefeller tried to monopolize oil . . ."
    I was just going to bring that up. These tech companies need to be dealt with the same way Rockefeller was, or Edison when he tried to monopolize movies. Companies shouldn't have THAT much power over customers. It's exploitative, plain and simple.

  • HoL

    My grievance with all this situation is that all media are now mass-produced and the room for individuality and quality content is becoming narrower and narrower. Coincidentally, I made a video about this very same topic on my channel, comparing the great video games of the past with the generic downloadable ones of the present.

  • ActaCaboose

    I don't know why you're acting surprised that feudalism is back, as the very purpose of capitalism is to undo the onset of neo-democratic movements begot by the French Revolution that destroyed the feudal system. European nobilities championed capitalism, and specifically liberal capitalism (and even more specifically, laissez-faire capitalism), as it granted an illusion of the freedoms promised by the French Revolution while still maintaining the feudalistic societal hierarchy and power structures. It's only taken 230 years for feudalism to return because tech companies are the first to outpace regulations that prevent the natural progression of capitalism, which is to either dismantle democracy or render it obsolete, thus restoring the feudalistic system.

  • baneto27

    I wonder, in the end, who these plataforms will sell to. One loses their job to technology, starts doing uber rides, but more and more are doing the same, so basically uber drivers pay to work, and without money they can't play plataforms…

  • Charles Kennedy

    There will come a time when we are so dependent on them that we have no choice but to pay, no matter what their price is.

  • ATipsey

    Technically, under most legal warranty and use rhetoric in videogame manuals (as far as 1999 N64 games to my knowledge), we’ve never truly owned the content in the videogames world. You just paid for the privilege to experience it. I’d love to think people want to share their ideas for the betterment of the species or at least for making someone else happy, but the truth is that too many people are driven by greed and self preservation to care about ‘sharing’.

  • Wololo

    Do what you want cause a pirate is free, you are a pirate!

    Yarr har fiddle dee dee

    Being a pirate is alright to be

    Do what you want cause a pirate is free

    You are a pirate!

    You are a pirate!


    We got us a map (A nao!)

    To lead us to a hidden box

    Thats all locked up with locks (with locks!)

    And buried deep away

    Well dig up the box (The box!)

    We know its full of precious booty

    Burst open the locks

    And then we say hooray!

    Yarr har fiddle dee dee

    If you love to sail the sea

    Weigh anchor!

    Yarr har fiddle dee dee

    Being a pirate is alright to be

    Do what you want cause a pirate is free

    You are a pirate!

    Arr yarr ahoy and avast

    Dig a deep and youre digging too fast

    Hang the black flag at the end of the mast!

    You are a pirate!


    Were sailing away (Set sail!)

    Adventure waits on every shore

    We set sail and explore (Yaar har!)

    And run and jump all day (Yeah!)

    We float in our boat (The Boat!)

    Until its time to drop the anchor

    Then hang up our coats (Aye, aye!)

    Until we sail again!

    Yarr har fiddle dee dee

    If you love to sail the sea

    Land ho!

    Yarr har fiddle dee dee

    Being a pirate is alright to be

    Do what you want cause a pirate is free

    You are a pirate!

    Yarr har! Wind at your back lads wherever you go!

    Blue sky above and blue ocean below

    You are a pirate!

    You are a pirate!

  • danielkjm

    Immortal tecnique said it better "its the Corporate life eating your brain, and like Mk Ultra making your perspective to change"

  • Orin Sorinson

    For games, I like GOG. No DRM… the good guys. As for any other game I get that has DRM and is locked into a platform, I have no moral qualms about getting a pirated copy.

  • danielkjm

    The worst part its that as soon as a piece of art,movie,games,song become less relevant they are forgotten and its impossible to acess them. Soo many songs movies and games that i can acess and even with piracy its getting harder due to companys going hard on pirates


    But you can still buy DVDs and BluRays. Also, there is no need for any specific way of entertainment. You don't need to watch or play anything digital. Things that really suck are monopolistic industry-standards like Adobe Software and other types of productivity and creativity software. But they have been like that for a long time.

  • white0thunder white0thunder

    Key words: Internet connection. And my internet connection is shit so… I ain't buying any of these streaming service shits that will take me hours to play ten minutes of a video game..

  • SarahLJP

    It’s interesting but I don’t actually care about paying for access to media. What I wouldn’t do it pay for a bajillion services. Only a few services are getting my money. I think some of this will pass once media platforms become over saturated. Companies will realize people won’t pay for so many different platforms. I think Disney+ is going to last because they gobbled up a lot of content ahead of launch. I don’t think NBC’s service is going to stand the test of time.

  • Daniel Moody

    Wisecrack, you should really consider exploring the cultural interpretations and philosophy behind Cyberpunk as a sub-genre of science fiction. A lot of what's come up on the channel lately would fit very well into a discussion on that, particularly in the realm of consumerism.

  • H. Ar.

    Piracy was a huge thing before when we had to buy DVDs of movies we watched. Then Netflix came where for the price of 2/3 coffees per month you have access to lots of movies. As a result, piracy decreased. Now, we have more subscriptions to pay for and these companies will only realize how much piracy will make a comeback. Honestly, these big companies that have more than one source of income know that already, they just are hoping that eventually the companies with one source of income (Netflix) will start losing its clients slowly. I know lots of people personally who already cancelled their subscription this year, and some that are thinking about it, including myself!

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