Data are released in fashion: from cool hunting to datafication, an analysis of how social behavior turn into products for fast fashion retailers like Shein

Tremarin, Alexandre Camilo
Master, the Postgraduate Program in Communication Sciences - University of Vale do Rio dos Sinos - Rio Grande do Sul, Member of Research Group of the Epistemology of Communication (National Council for Scientific and Technological Development - CNPq), сoordinated by Jairo Ferreira, CNPq Researcher and Postgraduate Program in Communication Professor at Federal University of Santa Maria, São Leopoldo - Santa Maria, Brazil

In many ways, the pandemic years served to accelerate a series of trends and movements. With the advancement of technology and the increasing shift from a media society to one influenced by mediatization, the social field of fashion was forced to take positions and make immediate adaptations. In this context, this analysis investigates the market operations and the discursive logics of the Chinese fast fashion chain Shein, and relates it to other Brazilian brands in the sector. It intensifies a market dispute and opens a broad discussion about piracy, sustainability, ethics, and the use of consumer data to create its products. According to Van Dijck (2017, p.42), in social networks, the data collected are generally considered impressions or symptoms of people's real behaviors or moods, with platforms being presented as simple neutral facilitators. This has become a true market of emotions, as brands appropriate information and feed back into networks. Everything we do today on the internet generates “digital traces”, “numerically produced correlations of different types of data that are created by our practices in a media environment characterized by digitization” (Hepp & Breiter, 2018, p. 440). In this dynamic, the understanding of the use of data validity has different biases, and mobilizes society. The profusion of technology, digitization, datification and autonomization caused by digital mediatization provokes a “mutation in the conditions of access of individual actors to media discursivity, producing unprecedented transformations in the conditions of circulation” (Verón, 2012, p. 14, our translation). These relationships established a new form of social control, which on one hand makes consumers believe they are in charge, but on the other hand, end up entangling them in new tricks. To qualify them as agents of the system, Sant'Anna (2007, p. 92) uses the term “fashion-subject”, in opposition to the concept proposed by Lipovetsky (1989): “fashion-individual”. The concept of circulation (Fauto e Ferreira, 2020) is essential here, with the intention of elucidating the processes of meaning and the effects produced by them, related to the discourses of production and reception. In the exposed perspective, the spheres of production and consumption are analyzed in view of the construction of their interrelation, establishing new roles for brands and consumers, who start to articulate themselves in the face of production, and thus generate new constructions of meanings placed in circulation. The process of searching for identity, in a social context influenced by intense digitalization and consumption, is part of the “new ambience” caused by mediatization (Gomes, 2017, p. 66). In this sense, fashion fulfills the role of individual understanding, being an instrument of pleasure, seduction and fantasy, and also of novelty and innovation in each new collection, perpetuating its ephemerality. All this generated by desire. The “emergence of people” (Lipovetsky, 2009, p.61) takes over the scenario, building their own individual discourses and giving new meaning to the process, previously dominated by traditional corporate media. For Bourdieu (1998), fashion has great potential to be one of these strategies of distinction, while combining qualities of individualization and imitation. This appropriation of culture happens mediated by the algorithms. Thus, between material algorithms and culture algorithms, a circular relationship is established (Ferreira, 2020). The research explores all these propositions, at different levels of analysis.

Keywords: fashion, trend, mediatization, datification, shein