Disoriented and alone in the “experience machine” - On Netflix, shared world deceptions and the consequences of deepening algorithmic personalization

SATS 22 (1):75-96 (2021)
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Most online platforms are becoming increasingly algorithmically personalized. The question is if these practices are simply satisfying users preferences or if something is lost in this process. This article focuses on how to reconcile the personalization with the importance of being able to share cultural objects - including fiction – with others. In analyzing two concrete personalization examples from the streaming giant Netflix, several tendencies are observed. One is to isolate users and sometimes entirely eliminate shared world aspects. Another tendency is to blur the boundary between shared cultural objects and personalized content, which can be misleading and disorienting. A further tendency is for personalization algorithms to be optimized to deceptively prey on desires for content that mirrors one’s own lived experience. Some specific - often minority targeting -“clickbait” practices received public blowback. These practices show disregard both for honest labeling and for our desires to have access and representation in a shared world. The article concludes that personalization tendencies are moving towards increasingly isolating and disorienting interfaces, but that platforms could be redesigned to support better social world orientation.
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Archival date: 2021-07-10
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