Note — Nov 10, 2019

The Troubling Age of Algorithmic Entertainment

Seen in → No.102

Source → theweek.com/articles/875017/troubling-age-algor...

Navneet Alang provides a good overview of the many ways in which the ever growing influence of various algorithms is transforming all forms of media, from motion smoothing, to “Spotify-core” music, to TikTok’s influence over length and focusing on memorable hooks. They change not only the form of the content we consume but the way we consume it. While we’ve always played around with how we read, view, or listen to art, we are now in front of something of a different magnitude. The internet originally offered an opportunity for every little niche and taste to get its place in the sun, now it is instead being dumbed down into an “algorithmed” and business-optimized mass of sameness.

The algorithmic delivery of music thus forms what, for Spotify, is a virtuous circle. But it also suggests that tech platforms don’t just deliver content, but that they shape it too, prioritizing quick hits and short tracks because those are the things that generate the most engagement. […]

Netflix is aware that people want to rush through content — not just to enjoy it, but also to then participate in the cultural conversation that’s around it. Is everyone at work talking about Succession, Fleabag, and that new true crime podcast, but you’re behind on all of them? Well, rip through them at double speed so you aren’t left out. […]

But the sheer ubiquity of the streaming platforms for how we get content now suggests that the dominance of algorithms and their place in the attention economy aren’t entirely neutral or value-free. Disney, for example, is quietly placing classic Fox films into its so-called “vault,” where it hides movies from distribution for a while to drum up hype when they are re-released. One imagines this is so they can put them back on their forthcoming streaming service, to much delight.