Algorithmic Breakdown

July 28, 2022 Algorithm Kyle Chayka Patricia de Vries Ryan Broderick

From that same Kyle Chayka piece I linked to two days ago:

Patricia de Vries, a research professor at Gerrit Rietveld Academie who has written about algorithmic anxiety, told me, Just as the fear of heights is not about heights, algorithmic anxiety is not simply about algorithms.” Algorithms would not have the power they have without the floods of data that we voluntarily produce on sites that exploit our identities and preferences for profit. When an ad for bras or mattresses follows us around the Internet, the culprit is not just the recommendation algorithm but the entire business model of ad-based social media that billions of people participate in every day.

Ryan Broderick in his Newsletter Garbageday, bemoaning the sudden prominence of LinkedIn-style advice posts on Twitter:

Taken as a whole, instead of the somewhat benign nuisance this community has been historically, instead, I’m beginning to wonder if the fact we’re noticing this kind of stuff more often is because algorithmic recommendations are breaking down.

If everything works as it should, you shouldn’t ever encounter these people. At no point in our short history of large-scale social media platforms has there ever been a time when thinkfluencers, hustle bros, or founders,” as they’re calling themselves now, were promoted or amplified on purpose. Largely because they don’t add anything of value to a network. This was as true 15 years ago when these people wore Google Glass and were publishing weird embed-heavy blog posts about how the future of business was using Foursquare checkins to sell Groupons as it is now that they’re shilling NFTs and selling discount tickets to their Instagram Stories workshops.

And if that’s happening now, but it’s across every platform at once and it’s noticeably becoming more prominent, it has to make you wonder how strong these now-very-old content platforms are and how good of a job they are doing at recommending content now that everyone sort of know how to manipulate them.

Next: Algorithmic Popularity

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