The platforms of streaming they use an algorithm that affects what we see and what we want to see, shaping our personality.
Squid Game, the Korean dystopian drama from Netflix, has become the most watched series released by the platform. streaming all-time, with 111 million viewers watching at least two minutes of an episode.
Of the thousands of series available on Netflix worldwide, how did so many people end up watching the same show? The easy answer is: an algorithm, a computer program that gives us personalized recommendations based on our data and that of other users.
According to the conversation, the platforms of streaming — like Netflix, Spotify, and Amazon Prime — have changed the way we consume content, primarily through the greater availability of movies, music and shows for everyone.
But how do we deal with so many options? This type of service uses algorithms to direct our attention in certain directions, organizing content and keeping us active on the platform. As soon as we open the application, the customization processes begin.
And these algorithms don’t just respond to our tastes, they also shape and influence them, making us see the world through genres, labels and categories.
Although 50 years ago there were a handful of musical genres, the emergence of streaming caused genre ratings on a grand scale — Spotify alone has more than 5,000 music genres. As we consume music and movies, we are constantly bombarded with new labels and categories.
Thanks to these categories, our tastes can be more specific and eclectic, and our most fluid and molded identities.
The hyper-specific categories of the platforms streaming they are created and stored in metadata and help to decide what we consume. If we think of Netflix as a vast archive of series and movies, the way it’s organized through metadata decides what gets discovered.
On Netflix, the thousands of categories range from the so-called common movie genres — like horror, documentary and romance — to hyper-specific, for example the “foreign movies of the 70s”.
While the Squid Game is labeled “Korean, TV thrillers and drama” genres for audiences, there are thousands of more specific categories in metadata of Netflix that are shaping our consumption.
The personalized homepage uses algorithms to offer you certain genre categories as well as specific programs. As most of it is in the metadata, we may not be aware of the categories that are being served to us.
The success of Squid Game is an example of how algorithms can reinforce what is already popular; just like in the media, once a trend starts to be detected, the algorithms can draw even more attention to you.
Netflix’s categories do that too, telling us what the programs that are trending or popular in our local area.
The classification of culture can exclude us from certain categories, which can be limiting or even harmful, as is the case with the way disinformation spreads in the media.
Our social connections are also deeply shaped by the culture we consume, so these labels can ultimately affect who we interact with.
However, the positives are obvious: the personalized recommendations from Netflix and Spotify help us find exactly what we like in an incomprehensible number of options.