Masthead CMC Magazine / February 1, 1996
  Information Technology Systems as Publics, by John Monberg

Renegotiation of Individual and Collective Identities

Information technologies allow banks to define individuals, making finer distinctions between classes of customers, distinguishing who gets the highest level of service and who gets minimal service, and determining who is disenfranchised altogether.

First Chicago Bank drew national attention when it began to charge $3 for a teller visit. This was, in the words of Executive Vice President W.G. Jurgensen,"[a] multifaceted repricing designed to align customer transaction patterns with appropriately priced delivery alternatives," or as he also put it, "A pot of gold." Only 32% of customers had made a positive contribution to shareholder wealth, and now the other 68% are categorized and their behaviors adjusted to the bank's advantage. In contrast, the online user--generally affluent, educated and male--is thought of as "demanding, impatient, and savvy" and deserving of special treatment. [ []Spennemann, et. al. observe how technology's "autonomous self" can undermine a community order. ]

Captured dataflows may categorize more intimate aspects than individuals realize. Advanta, the nation's 14th largest credit card issuer, maintains an extensive database of telephone solicitations and customer complaints to Sears Roebuck along with consumer purchasing habits. Advanta also owns Great Expectations Creative Management, a video dating franchise. Anthony Brenner, senior management director of the firm, argues that video dating is "the ultimate information business." No doubt he too will utilize information to align customer transaction patterns to the desired effect. --

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