How Is Netflix Just So Damn Good?

This topic was decided upon stemming from the thought, “why is so much good content being produced on Netflix?”. Some of my favourite shows in recent years have been Netflix original productions (House of Cards, Orange Is The New Black), or Amazon original productions like Transparent. Shows like these have and continue to dominate prestigious Hollywood awards seasons, winning Emmy’s and Golden Globes year after year. The amount of VoD services that have original productions nominated and critically acclaimed grows every year. So clearly, my previously mentioned thought, has some validity to it, despite the fact that the term ‘good’ relative to content can be incredibly subjective.

I have realised that I’ve failed to mention that I intend on presenting my final project in the form of a research report. Therefore, I have also realised that I need to get crackin on a literature review. Luckily for me, I have come across an academic thesis written by Henry Zhu Tang in 2014,The Collaborative Filtering Effect of Netflix Ratings for Indie Films versus Blockbusters and Heavy Users versus Casual Users. This source is incredibly valuable to me as it incorporates many of the themes I discussed (and intend to expand on) in my previous blog post. Tang writes about the way Netflix uses recommendation algorithms to assist it’s users in finding content they presumably would be interested in and how this correlates to the type of content Netflix chooses to buy and also fund production of. Before reading this, I wasn’t even entirely aware of this connection. Everyone knows about the recommendation algorithms, love them or hate them, if you use the service, you are subjected to them. Personally, I don’t know where I stand on the privacy issue of Netflix knowing intricate details about my personality based on my TV and movie taste, but I do like a good recommendation. I hadn’t thought deep enough about the connection to how they utilise the recommendation algorithm for the type and quality content they offer. As it turns out, Netflix started out in 1997 as a service dedicated to providing more alternative content:

“In 1997, Reed Hastings and Marc Randolph founded Netflix, an online DVD-by-mail retailer that usurped the traditional brick-and-mortar model. At once, a wider library of titles had become available to consumers than ever before. Netflix introduced a proprietary recommendation system, powered by a collaborative filtering algorithm, to select movies to watch for its customers, a feature it continues to use for its global video streaming service today. This collaborative filtering algorithm would further highlight indie or niche films that could not be found (or were prohibitively difficult to find) in stores.”

Many of the ideas Tang writes about are connected to 4 of my 5 main talking points so far:

  1. Content with better diversity.

      2. Creators having more freedom around the production of content.

      3. VoD services content favouring audience viewing habits.

      4. Netflix buying up the rights to more low budget, yet ‘prestigious’ films at Sundance.

Due to how supportive this thesis is to my talking points for my report, I will likely go ahead and rely heavily on it throughout.

Better Half?

We are apprehensive of the upcoming future . We naturally fear change because we know what we were, but we do not know what will become.
As I progress and research more I find that my opinion shifts constantly. I find I dont support what I once did , what I once thought was a brilliant idea now scares me .

It is no surprise that A.I is getting smarter everyday . Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Stephen Hawking have all warned us of the dangers of A.I .  Someone posted  “Ive seen things you people haven’t seen before” on the cyberccultures blog . This got me thinking if an A.I is uploaded with everything we know on snowboarding does that mean it now becomes better at snowboarding than us .Does experience really matter ? Does A.I care about a stupid subjective experience. ?

Ray Kurzweil, explains in a symposium held at Stanford during the  year 2000 that ‘neural nets’ which are inspired by organic central nervous systems are ever developing all the time. The web becomes more complext the more nets are consturcted which makes it difficult ‘to train’ but in turn expressing much more intelligent and deeper behaviour. They are learning to simulate the deep and meaningful emotions we humans are associated with. Exponential paradigm shifts have proven that we are learning to learn faster. Moores Law also brings into factor the idea of singularity that we are producing double the amount of transistors on an integrated circuit and just judging the data as a complete idiot you can ask this question. “At what point does the human brain become obsolete?” . Will these Synths and mechanical minds actually be preferred over a human mind. Ray also estimates that by the year 2019 $1000 worth of circuitry will rival the 20 billion connections a human brain will make a second . We can already touch and feel the technology that will potentially make us inferior. By 2029, $1000 cicruitry will equal 1000 human brains and by 2050 this circuitry would be able to compute the same amount of information that is computed in a second by every brain in the world .
Are Synths really the future. Our we going to be outdone by our better halves.
I highly recommend everyone watch this symposium.
Everyone goes nuts over a lineup of DJ’s at an upcoming festival, this here is a lineup we should be going crazy for . MooresLaw2

 

Hofstadter, Doug et al. “Will Spiritual Robots Replace Humanity By 2100?”. 2000. Presentation.

User Generated Content

elysium design utopia

When brands utilise fan made, or user generated content, it becomes the advertising equivalent of citizen journalism.  It promotes the idea of participatory culture, while also adding to the narrative of the brand identity, and creating a community of collective understanding, collective intelligence, and collective passion (or brand tribes) around the brand organisation.

Bruns (2007) outlines characteristics of produsage with these 4 main points:

  • Moving away from dedicated individuals/teams, towards broader generation and distribution via participants;
  • Produsers move between the roles of leader; participant; and content user;
  • The generated content isn’t necessarily a finalised product, but something which can still develop;
  • Deliberate blind eye turned from copyright, in order to build upon existing works for further engagement.

A great example of a brand utilising user generated content to tell a targeted narrative are the hashtags UOW promotes to highlight student culture: #ExperienceUOW (1 | 2

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Who do you say you are online?

elysium design utopia

Personal branding is something we all interact with in this digital age, whether consciously or not.  Creating a username for a site you sign up to is one of the simplest ways this can play out: that username you choose is meant to reflect you, your identity, and act as an identifier for others, alerting them to your posts and interactions.  Further signifiers such as your profile picture/dp/avatar and bio boxes solidify this identity, giving other people more information about the online persona.

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Let’s take a look at my own twitter profile and what I believe it says about me:

  • Cover photo/Background image: My cover photo was chosen because it reflects a moment of me accomplishing something huge; climbing up to the top of a dormant volcano, despite stress and anxiety at being unfit comparatively to the rest of my family.  While not all those who visit my profile know this backstory…

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Performance of Online Identity

Our social media profiles provide a platform to tell a narrative about a subject we have the ultimate authority on: Ourselves.  So how does this tie into branding?  As highlighted earlier, “branding is not the logo, it is not the name, but rather it is a conceptual idea, which gives consumers ‘something to believe in.” (Turner, 2015).  Placing this into a personalised context, it means that our  digital identity is not based solely on our avatars, usernames, and bios; it is formed around what we utilise our platforms for, what message we communicate though our tweets, our Instagram pictures, our status updates on Facebook.  The avatar/username/bios form a quick overview, while the content we publish allows the audience to get a better understanding of who we are. “In essence, our online selves represent our ideals and eliminate many of our other real components.” (Green, 2013)

Are our online identities accurate reflections of who we are as a whole?  Do we successfully communicate the way we understand and approach life through our digital profiles?  Or do we instead present a false construction of ourselves online?  One of the ideas I suggested in my post about branding and transmedia, is that perhaps our online identity varies across different platforms, together creating a larger narrative of the self, but also existing separately, without the need of information from another network.

Screen Shot 2016-05-11 at 2.01.41 pm

If we are displaying different aspects of ourselves through different social networks, it becomes clear that we are curating our online presence for different audiences.  Our representation of self, although only an aspect of our identity is still a vital part of it, not making it any less valid than a social network which includes all possible information in one space; but rather targeted towards a more specific audiences.

“When an individual plays a part he implicitly requests his observers to take seriously the impression that is fostered before them. They are asked to believe that the character they see actually possesses the attributes he appears to possess, that the task he performs will have the consequences that are implicitly claimed for it, and that, in general, matters are what they appear to be.” (Erving Goffman, 1959)

We enter into the social media space, assuming that the content published is an accurate representation of oneself, in some way; however when the narrative presented conflicts with itself, the authenticity has been lost.  Davis (2010) suggests that we “preemptively alter our offline selves in order to authentically convey ourselves online in a particular way”,  which is an interesting concept if we acknowledge that we present different aspects of ourselves through different social networks.  If we are trying to authentically portray ourselves, do we lose authenticity if we omit certain aspects of our lives? I would argue that this is not the case, and Owen’s (2011) takes the idea of authenticity and how showing different aspects of self in different environments is still an authentic representation of ourselves: “James is an honest man and also kind. At the funeral of his wicked uncle, he will not be honest about his thoughts about the deceased, in order to be kind to the feelings of the rest of his family. […] Our identities are not socially universal.”  As such, we perform for different audiences, we aim to create a highly curated feed of information about ourselves, which is specifically directed at an audience, with similar interests, similar personality types, similar ideals.

As some extra food for thought; if we portray a different element of our overall identity on digital platforms, and chose to invest in AI technology after we died, would that mean our varied social presences would generate a number of vastly different versions of ourself as a result of the content we have access to?

Chattr: Viral Media

Last week I talked about the content of Chattr, and how much it’s changed since we started back in 2015. This week, I want to talk about the content that we NEED at Chattr, to make it popular and hit a large audience, and that’s Viral Content. Through my research of Viral Content, what I basically found is that while there’s a good way to see content that’s going viral early, no one really knows how to actually a viral video, which is totally reassuring!

One of the most common explanations is that media content now travels like a pandemic, spreading through audiences by infecting person after person who comes into contact with it. The term “viral” first appeared in science fiction stories, describing bad ideas that spread like germs.

Neal Stephenson’s science fiction novel Snow Crash explains this, “We are all susceptible to the pull of viral ideas. Like mass…

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Chattr: The Content

Since my last blog post, a lot has happened with Chattr. We launched our website chattr.com.au, and we’ve been growing on every platform! Today however, I want to take a step back and talk about the content of Chattr. We used to post one or two videos a week, which were our classic Vox Pop series we started at UOW.

Over the last few months however, we’ve been posting videos every single day, alongside of 2-3 articles! Views on the website, and our reach on Facebook has been growing exponentially since. Here’s a great article written by Bernie Clarke, about the changes to Wattamolla, a beloved treasure in the southern suburbs of Sydney.

Although I could talk about the content over at Chattr all day long, I decided to keep looking into the theoretical parts of what makes up Chattr. Henry Jenkins and his mates have delivered yet again…

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Employment and living with AI

When it comes to artificial intelligence, there are many people who believe that the introduction of artificial intelligence and robots could lead to a  dystopian world similar to that portrayed in “Terminator Salvation” (p.s. Terminator Salvation is a terrible film), where robots have enslaved humanity. Whilst not entirely implausible, the threat of unemployment is a much greater moral concern  surrounding unemployment, with the World Economic Forum  suggesting that as many as 5 million jobs, from 15 developed and emerging economies could be lost by 2020 (Brinded, 2016). In fact, many people are already starting to lose their jobs to machines with self-serve checkouts being a major example of the way machines have been able to do a job, previously undertaken by human employees, but with greater efficiency and lower cost.  However, I am more focused on investigating the threat posed by human-like robots, rather than machines in general. Why? Because that’s what society imagines when you mention artificial intelligence. They imagine machines that replicate our human bodies.

terminator-0-0
source

In countries such as Japan, many more jobs are now being done by robots. In fact, there is a theme park in Nagasaki, Japan that is about open a “robot kingdom” section where over 200  robots will work as bartenders, chefs, luggage carriers and more.(Niinuma, 2016).  At the 2016 Milken Institute’s Global Conference in Beverly Hills, California, many of the guests confirmed that robots are slowly becoming employed by various companies, at the expense of us humans (Japan Today, 2016). The idea of robots or sentient beings in relation to the workforce, leads to a greater moral question: Could humans and robots co-exist peacefully?

In his book ‘Digital Soul: Intelligent Machines and Human Values ‘, Thomas M. Georges hypothesizes how the introduction of sentient beings in society might be received by humans. Georges states that “learning to live with superintelligent machines will require us to rethink our concept of ourselves and our place in the scheme of things” (Georges 2003, pg. 181). This statement raises many philosophical questions, which I will explore in my next blog post alongside an in-depth look at the 2015 film ‘Ex-Machina’. Georges’ statement does, however, imply that unsurprisingly living with robots would cause some conflict and would not be a smooth transition for humans. Having said that, many will say that we are already living amongst various forms of “weak” AI such as Siri or Cotana, smart home devices and the somewhat annoying purchase prediction. However, these are forms of “weak” AI and we are still a long way away from a society where humans co-exist  with sentient beings. All we can do, for now, is worry and imagine.

References

Brinded, L 2016, “WEF: Robots, automation and AI will replace 5 million human jobs by 2020”, Business Insider Australia, viewed 4th May 2016, http://www.businessinsider.com.au/wef-davos-report-on-robots-replacing-human-jobs-2016-1?r=UK&IR=T

Georges, T. M. 2003, Digital soul: intelligent machines and human values. Boulder, CO: Westview Press

N/A 2016, “Rich and powerful warn robots are coming for your jobs.”, Japan Today  Viewed May 5, 2016, http://www.japantoday.com/category/technology/view/rich-and-powerful-warn-robots-are-coming-for-your-jobs

Niinuma, O 2016, “Theme park’s ‘robot kingdom’ seeks to upend Japan’s service industry”, Nikkei Asian Review, viewed May 5 2016, http://asia.nikkei.com/Tech-Science/Tech/Theme-park-s-robot-kingdom-seeks-to-upend-Japan-s-service-industry?utm_source=fark&utm_medium=website&utm_content=link

APIs for Students

PAUL TUOHY

My exploration of the API focusses on its ability to assist in agency for an individual within a system. I’m exploring beyond the grounds of feedback systems, and assessing other forms of potential Edutech platforms.

APIs – application program interfaces – provide a programme to access and interact with datasets within another program. APIs let you build, hack and remix current systems. For example, a student has utilised Twitter’s API to post (on their behalf) data pulled from UOW’s Parking API to build a (somewhat satirical) Twitter account that tweets out parking availability amongst social commentary. Or, something more elaborate that integrates data from BOM weather mapping, and Livetrafic feed with UOW parking data. Both of these (Indie edutech) platforms are possible due to the availabilities of APIs. Essentially, connecting two (or more) data sets from separate systems produces more value than either of them could independently:…

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The Rejection of Political Suffocation

I never found much of an interest in politics until I started University and began to follow news sources on Facebook that kept me informed with what was going on in the world. Now it seems everyone has an opinion on everything and political involvement is as easy as putting an equal sign or a flag filter over your profile picture. Cayari (2015) outlines how Youtube has allowed for a shift from media to social media (#hashtag) that requires us to rethink spacial relations of communication and politics (p. 43).

Radiohead knows how to create a hype, that’s for sure! Seemingly dropping from the internet completely, to then dropping their new single and accompanying music video.

Initially I thought it was a ‘stick it to the man’ esque narrative. With some research I found it actually is a response to the current refugee crisis and the islamophobia that has accompanied that. The animator, Verpi Kettu, speaks of the “blaming of different people… the blaming of Muslims and the negativity.” With the intention of shocking viewers about the absurdity of the dank state the crisis has ended up in, Radiohead has opened up an opportunity for reflection and outcry.

In a less cryptic manner, M.I.A.‘s music video for ‘Borders’ similarly confronts the audience with imagery that compliments the lyrics about the perils of refugees en route to a better life through the legal system. She is renowned for her political music videos however specifically for borders, having been a refugee of war herself validates her reason to speak up. She says ‘…now I have a voice in a time when war is the most invested thing on the planet.’

Of course it’s not always as easy as protesting politics online with no consequence. Feminist, Russian group Pussy Riot (pictured in cover) found themselves charged of being ‘hooligans motivated by religious hatred’ because of the videos they had uploaded protesting Putin and his dictatorship (Scholar, 2013). Their video for ‘I Can’t Breathe‘ garnered attention as it was directed at the police brutality which caused the death of Eric Garner. This event was controversial already as a bystander had recorded the entire event and uploaded it for all of cyberspace to see and judge for themselves. PR’s video depicts them being buried alive while wearing Russian police uniforms with the last words of Garner played at the ending. It’s a very literal and confronting piece about the suffocation of civilians in dire circumstances with authorities. Part of what makes PR so successful in this regard is the hysteria they cause. In an interview, one member states how people ‘condemn them and wish for prison or death, without verifying anything or even watching the video. A complete information deficit’ (Scholar, 2013). The fear that is triggered when people hear how quickly their message travels when uploaded is exactly what gives this platform of cyberculture such an impact.

Reference List:

Cayari C (2015) Participatory culture and informal music learning through video creation in the curriculum, International Journal of Community Music, Vol. 8, Iss. 1, p41-57, source.

Scholar C (2013) Reinventing the Show Trial: Putin and Pussy Riot, TDR : Drama review, Vol. 57, Iss. 1, source.