WHAT’S THE ALGORITHM ACTUALLY DOING?
When talking about ‘the algorithm’, most people are referring to the way in which they receive targeted information on online social networks in the form of recommendations - things to buy, read, follow or watch.
“I really love that the [Spotify] algorithm sends me suggestions based on what other music I listen to. I’ve discovered so many new artists and songs purely because of the curated playlists. It's an easy way to enjoy music and it's really rare that I'm shown anything I dislike. On my homepage they usually highlight when an artist I like has a new album out and I really like seeing that because it also makes me feel a little more in the loop/ahead of the curve. Thinking you're getting the newest thing immediately is a nice feeling - even if everyone has the same experience.” Grace, 28, UK
Recommendations are based on personal internet usage habits, where ‘the algorithm’ (code with a mission to keep you engaged) learns what individuals are most likely to enjoy. And it’s pervasive. Today, the algorithm short-circuits the process of discovery in nearly every digital context. From Instagram and TikTok to food delivery apps and Spotify music recommendations, the algorithms are constantly jostling our newsfeed towards their goal.
We could write a whole 52INSIGHTS on the TikTok algorithm itself.
“TikTok is so crazy. You can see the algorithm changing as you use it. If I watch ONE cooking video for example, suddenly every second video is a cooking video. It's so smart because when I'm in the mood for certain content it picks up on that live. There are lots of mini subcultures too - people who are different ages or genders have a completely different experience. One of my friends is on 'Bird TikTok' and constantly sends funny videos from people who have birds as pets. I have never once seen a video about birds on my FYP [for you page] but I get lots of dog videos. It's also slightly concerning because you can get so far into certain bubbles or niche groups and tend to think that's the whole world - where others are seeing something completely unique.” Eleanor, 29, UK