The Celebrity Founders of Digital Capitalism

Winch, Alison. 2021. 'The Celebrity Founders of Digital Capitalism'. In: Research Seminar Series (School of Media and Communication). University of Leeds, United Kingdom 27 January 2021. [Conference or Workshop Item]

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Abstract or Description

What legitimates the extraordinary power and reach of the founders of Amazon, Google, Facebook and others? These billionaires are some of the richest people in the world and their corporations impact our everyday lives in multiple ways. We have seen their wealth increase during the pandemic.

In our forthcoming book, we suggest that these founders constitute a ‘patriarchal network’. Even though they might appear in public as rivals, their material interests are shared not just at the general, sectoral level, but very literally through investment in each other’s companies and outside interests.

Using a 10 million word concordance that we built using popular books about the technology sector, we find that the celebrity narratives these founders draw on are fundamentally American stories drawing on the imaginary of the frontier pioneer and his household, including its classed hierarchies of race, gender, citizenship.

This paper maps a patriarchal network consisting of Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, Sergy Brin and Larry Page, Peter Thiel, Sheryl Sandberg. I then focus on Sandberg whose bargaining location in the network reveals its racialized patriarchal structure in illuminating ways.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Talk)

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Media, Communications and Cultural Studies


27 January 2021Completed

Event Location:

University of Leeds, United Kingdom

Date range:

27 January 2021

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

16 Feb 2024 11:22

Last Modified:

16 Feb 2024 11:22


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