Have your cake and feed it forward too: YouTube, oral cravings and the persistent question of media addiction
Keywords:YouTube, recommender systems, digital platforms, engineering technology, close reading
Focusing on the case of recommendations on the video streaming platform YouTube, this article revisits questions of media addiction and addictive media that continue to trouble research in the field. Based on a close reading of Google/YouTube’s engineering papers, this paper argues that the platform’s recommender system — the machine learning system responsible for the personalisation and customisation of what videos users are offered — has been designed to function as a feeding tube and a precarious holding environment, thus corroborating widespread critiques about this system’s addictive — oral — strategies of user retention. Subsequently, this article discusses how the platform’s more recent promise of “responsible recommendations” has so far been articulated in the engineering papers. Specifically, this promise has taken the form of a fetishist structure that endorses responsibility but not at the expense of the time users spend watching. This structure is best captured in the proverbial Have your cake and eat it too.
How to Cite
Copyright (c) 2023 First Monday
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Authors retain copyright to their work published in First Monday. Please see the footer of each article for details.