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Spotify’s Algorithm Of The Cave

An attack on the individual, free will, and good music.

 In M.T. Anderson’s dystopia novel Feed, Violet Durn makes it her mission to confuse the internet feed, which constantly rolls through everyone’s head. She likes and investigates every advertisement she receives, but does not buy anything, making it impossible for the feed to accurately profile her because her interests are so wide. In this article, I will show you how Spotify aims to steer and narrow our interests, just as the feed does, so it can influence the culture in a deeper way.

Spotify, the popular online music streaming platform, has recently launched a new search category: Student. Here’s how you find it: in the Spotify app, go to the search bar and scroll down. Pretty close to the top of the categories list lies Student. Click on that, and fellow students, welcome to Spotify’s deep, dark secret. You can see several categories and playlists; one cannot fail to notice the abhorrent simplification of America’s youth into five student tropes. Within this category, Spotify outlines five main types of students (with some extras, but these are the main ones): For the jocks; revenge of the nerds; emo kids; you can’t sit with us; and granola girlie music. Count ’em: 5. Spotify thinks there are five types of teens. They (Spotify corporate) aim to strip America’s youth of their individuality and group them into these five groups, as they are understood from the movie, “Breakfast Club.” They want to cause greater division across these groups for targeted advertising by corralling, collating, and confining us into easily managed groups. While I admit they are not mandating it, they are subtly implying that each group’s music taste must correspond with the group they belong to. Perhaps that is why Spotify users did not receive an email when this function was launched, just a pop-up notification that never appeared again. One of the playlists in the “granola girlies” category is called “Folk Arc.” I see this as Spotify implying they expect each girl in this group to go through a “folksy” phase. 

Spotify should not restrict the taste of its listeners, nor should it expect anything from them. It should allow people to freely listen to the music they want to listen to. Suppose nerds listen to music that Spotify thinks nerds should listen to simply because they actually like that music. In that case, I’m totally fine with that. But if a nerd convinces himself that he likes that music because Spotify told him he should like it, then I have some serious issues. This is an attempt to form the culture in a diabolical, Orwellian way. 

Spotify’s ideal world seems to be everyone listening to the music “to which they belong,” which is a world where it can easily control culture by recommending songs, playlists, and artists. Ultimately, Spotify does not support diversity of tastes – it aims to form a culture of conformity and homogeneity built for people who cannot think for themselves. It’s no secret that music affects the listener’s mood. What if coinciding with a news story Spotify doesn’t like, it suddenly recommends to waves of people music that makes them angry? If we are truly “bubbles on the tide of empire,” as Robert Penn Warren claims, then it must be true that many of us can make waves. I don’t want an app on my phone to control the tides; that’s the moon’s job.

Not to mention the DJ function that launched this year. It picks what music you listen to, and it even uses phrases like: “your kind of rock” and “your zone.” Has it not occurred to us that it could be lying? What if the next few songs are not “just my vibe” but a plot to make me feel a certain way? And doesn’t a DJ function mean that Spotify has been collecting data about what music you listen to? And isn’t it true that you can learn a lot about someone through the music they listen to? Can we really put it past Spotify to use that data against us for their own corporate gains? 

And need I remind you that not only are we letting Spotify choose the music we listen to, but we also do not control the other mediums of content we consume? TikTok’s whole thing is that the algorithm chooses what you see next, not you. You can keep scrolling and scrolling, and it will feed you more and more videos. Just as Spotify’s DJ influences your demeanor with song choices, TikTok influences the course of your day by simultaneously showing millions of people the same inflammatory and action-inducing video? 

Rage against the machine. Choose for yourself. We have nothing to lose except the chains of the corporate algorithm.

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