Scams are endemic to digital capitalism, whether they manifest as bitcoin bubbles or bullshit jobs. Drawing on two years of digital ethnography in Myanmar’s Facebook land markets, this article explains what happens when the land scam migrates online. By unraveling warnings of trickery, interviewing wary participants, and inhabiting Facebook Live real estate tours, we argue that the scam is a vocation born of hope and desperation that targets land as the most-stable asset amidst crisis, one which operates through the networked and affective affordances of social media sites. Specifically, we highlight how Facebook enables brokers to ‘crowd’ transactions and amplify hype around sought-after plots, obscuring risk and responsibility while generating excitement and competition. Live video formats enable brokers to cultivate digital intimacy and authenticity from afar, creating a collective emotional investment in what we call the “virtual reality of land.” Bringing together critical geography and media studies, our analysis situates the scam in particular histories of inequality while explaining how these relations are reformulated through social media sites' sensory, affective, and connective affordances.
|Environment and Planning D: Society and Space
|Published - 2023
- Digital geography
- platform capitalism
- social media