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  • Kiara Hanice

Algorithmic Culture and Machine Learning


Algorithmic culture is the emergence of a “new elite,” strong platforms that make choices that affect public culture but do not reveal what goes on “behind the scenes” of their outcome. The public has no way of knowing how decisions are taken, but we may infer that they are designed to support the platform's strategic business interests instead of the general good. The platforms may claim to represent the “will of the people,’’ but this is a dubious argument given their whole decision-making machinery is private and not available for public inspection or accountability.

Machine learning is frequently mentioned nowadays from the perspective of retrieving useful user data analytics. However, is there a location where firms can collect and analyse large amounts of user data? It may seem too good to be true, but it is true: social media.

Today, we will know about how algorithmic culture and machine learning is being used across a variety of social media platforms, by both media owners and third-party corporations looking for user data. We’ll also know how these online apps know which shows and sitcoms we like due to our previous engagements and how their algorithms work.

What Do You Mean When You Say “Culture Of Algorithms”?

The ideal term is “algorithmic culture,” which I used to describe how computers, using complicated mathematical equations, sort, classify and hierarchize people, places, objects, and ideas. The above google sample exemplifies the point, however, it may also be found elsewhere on the online platform.

When it comes to choosing which of your contacts, and which of their postings, will feature frequently in your social media feeds, Facebook does a lot of the same job. When shopping sites and movies or music streaming platforms provide you things based on the ones you’ve previously consumed, it’s the same thing.

What’s crucial to observe, though, is how algorithmic culture feeds back to build innovative habits of thoughts, behaviour, and expression that would never have existed otherwise – a culture of algorithms, if you will. This culture helps to emphasize rather than challenge one’s current preferences or methods of operation. On the other hand, an algorithmic system may be able to bring you to cultural goods that you would not have discovered otherwise. Current culture may have only been as good as its algorithms.

What Is Machine Learning?

To comprehend how this algorithmic culture works, we must first learn how machines make the decisions. And then, we start considering the distinctions between human and machine judgement, as well as the potential consequences of computer decisions for our cultural world. Computer science’s machine learning is difficult and quickly evolving.

The process of building algorithms that analyse information, study from it and make judgments or predictions is known as machine learning. These algorithms are tested and ‘trained’ on specific data collections before being used to categorize, organize, and make data-related decisions.

Classifications, such as arranging data and making distinctions, is a common machine learning activity. For example, you could teach a machine to ‘classify’ dwelling as belonging to one of the two cities.

Classifications are done by making decisions regarding a variety of data dimensions (these could be features, variables or edges). A home’s price altitude above sea level, or size, for example, are all dimensions that might be used to describe it.

A decision-making model is developed and then trained using training data in a typical approach to machine learning. The model is tested with previously unknown test data after it has been developed.

Principles Of Streaming Algorithms

The majority of recommendation systems fall into one of three categories:

  • A content-based algorithm makes a recommendation based on a product’s features, such as metadata, tags, or text, and compares them to items that the audience has previously engaged with.

  • To produce recommendations, a collaborative filtering approach uses the interests and actions of other users with comparable inclinations.

  • A knowledge-based technique compares a product’s characteristics to a user’s preferences to provide recommendations depending on the similarities. Because it’s not based on previous behaviours, this strategy is the best for discovering fresh stuff.

A combination of these three systems is used by many streaming platforms. The knowledge-based system, for example, functions well for a new audience who have no previous experience with the platform, although other systems may work better for other categories of users.

Algorithmic Culture And Machine Learning In Online Apps

Netflix, Amazon prime videos, the recommendation system is responsible for more than 80% of the TV series and movies that users watch on the platform. That implies that when you think you’re choosing what to watch or listen to on Netflix or Amazon prime, you’re selecting from a list of algorithm-generated options. If you’re still unsure what an algorithm is in these social apps, it’s essentially a set of database instructions that tells these apps what to do and how to do it.

Let’s have a look at each one of these apps and know about how their algorithms work.

Binging On Netflix’s Algorithm

The recommendation system works by combining data gathered from various sources. Rows that are recommended to you are based on your viewing patterns. That’s how you know your younger sibling has been watching Pokémon for hours on your account. Algorithms are frequently utilized to aid machine learning in this situation.

Machine learning-based systems, such as Netflix, rewrite themselves as they learn from their subscribers. Netflix collects data that notifies and updates the algorithms every time you hit play and spend a little time watching a TV episode or a movie. The algorithm becomes more updated as you view more videos.

The information gathered is multifaceted and comprehensive, but it entails far more than simply analysing the genre of a series a user is watching and recommending dramas, comedies, romances to him or her. A variety of machine learning algorithms power the Netflix experience, including ranking, search, similarity, ratings, and more. Because they can’t make their full inventory available at once, they should curate it. Netflix can’t compete with Rotten Tomatoes, Pitchfork, or IMDb because quality and variety or taste are synonymous. Instead, they must get to know their users and provide personalized recommendations.

Netflix collaborates with a variety of taste groups. Each viewer is assigned to one of several groups, which influence what recommendations appear at the top of every touchscreen interface, including which genre rows are presented as well as how the row is structured. If you are viewing patterns that are comparable to those of some other user, Netflix will make recommendations depending on that user’s activity as well.

Machine learning algorithms are tagged with the same tags all over the world. Netflix has paid real people to categorise and catalogue all of its TV series and movies, resulting in hyper-specific micro categories like “visually-striking nostalgic dramas” and “understated romantic road trip movies.” Each of these data points is combined to determine which taste group you belong to. The content that appears on each user’s screen – from left to right and top to bottom is determined by which groups they belong to.

Why Rows?

Netflix’s machine learning engineer, Chris Alvino, says that they chose rows to make it simpler for subscribers to browse a huge section of the catalogue. Members can rapidly assess whether a full collection of movies in a row is likely to involve something they are keen to watch at that precise moment by showing coherent groupings of films in a row, offering a meaningful name for every row, and displaying rows in a helpful order. This enables users to either delve deeper into the theme and browse for more videos, or to bypass them and move on to the next row. Each device has unique hardware capabilities that reduce the number of rows shown at any given moment and the size of the entire page, which is why Netflix has to be conscious of every device’s limitations.

Each row can provide a member with a unique and individualized view of the catalogue. Part of Netflix’s task is to establish helpful video groups to emphasize the catalogue’s depth and assist subscribers in not just reinforcing but also discovering new areas of interest. The recommendation should be dynamic and responsive, but also consistent so that users are comfortable with their homepage and can quickly discover films that have already been recommended before.

The Algorithm For Recommendation

Netflix invites new members to rank their interest in film genres as well as any films they’ve seen before as a part of the onboarding process. Why do they do it immediately at the start? Because Netflix’s success depends on viewers discovering new movies and series they’ll enjoy. People will quit if they run out of films or series to watch and have no chance of figuring out new ones. Netflix must concentrate its efforts on developing an appropriate algorithm instead of relying on users to uncover new movies from outside sources.

Is the algorithm for making recommendations reliable and successful? Since these suggestions account for 75% of visitor engagement, I’d say it’s a win-win situation for them.


While Netflix’s recommendation engine is heavily reliant on machine learning and algorithms, HBO Max has attempted to take a different approach, combining algorithmic and human-curated content while emphasizing the human touch. HBO max debuted in May 2020, over a decade or two after Netflix’s streaming platform. Its recommendation algorithm, on the other hand, solidified its comparative benefit beyond its content.

While HBO Max still uses algorithms and machine learning to make suggestions, they are careful to point out the “pockets of the site’’ that use human curation. Both HBO Max employees and celebrities will be able to create lists of users. Its aim, like Netflix’s, is to be as individualized as possible while being social.

Sarah Lyons, HBO Max’s senior vice president of product, believes that this benefit is just as vital as the content itself. HBO Max aims to add a much more human-focused curator in the long run by connecting users with other human suggestions, such as recommendations from friends. The verge compares its operations to a model more similar to Spotify than Netflix, in which the priority is on the shared experience.


HBO Max debuted half a year before Disney+. Its main concentration is on algorithms and natural language. It focuses on not only the platform’s origin but also on how users use it today. It looks at how people engage with the site in a particular order, and what they watch repeatedly, and what they don’t click on. The purpose is to create a more interactive and engaging platform that will assist people in comprehending what is accessible.

Amazon Prime And The Criterion Channel

Amazon Prime focuses on its business algorithms and machine learning. It primarily employs a collaborative filtering technique that examines what other users are doing. The Criterion Channel is the most spontaneous of all the streaming services. It has completely given up algorithms in favour of displaying what it considers to be significant rather than what it believes a user is likely to be interested in.


Hulu updated its experience in late 2020, adopting a layout more similar to Netflix, featuring horizontal, browsable rows. Its suggestion system was redesigned to customize the rows either with a human-curated selection, an algorithmic selection, or a blend of the two. Hulu’s search engine and general suggestions are based on algorithm decisions, however, trending sections are curated by humans. The site appears to be aiming for a happy medium, between human and automated curation.

To Summarise

Finally, we’ve learned about the algorithmic culture and machine learning in detail. I hope this has made you clear about how these algorithms work in online apps and how this recommendation system works.

The procedures or parameters used to solve issues or execute calculations involve algorithms that play a very important role in our daily lives. While algorithms can benefit our lives by making the decision-making process much easier in most cases, it is not always that straightforward. Algorithms do not exist in a vacuum. Instead, most of the algorithms rely on machine learning, data-driven statistics, and artificial intelligence to improve or specify them. They are ever changing, and are as useful as they are. Nevertheless, the majority of individuals are unable to use the internet without the assistance of algorithms.

Algorithms and machine learning will play a crucial role in the future, but every platform mentioned above has to acknowledge the relevance as well as the downfall of the algorithms as they evolve. If platforms do this, we, as users, must be conscious of how we utilize recommendation algorithms.


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