a mash-up of television & cooperation
A number of years ago we were one of those families who helped decide what television shows lived or died. Sure, it was just one little vote in a vast sea opinions. But each night we’d plug our little electronic monitors into their phone-terminals and they would transmit our day’s watching habits back to the ratings mother-ship to be added to the collection of metrics.
We stopped participating because it was a hassle. Yet, it occurs to me again that not only would my participation in such an ongoing data gathering exercise be virtually worthless, but also that the time we spend watching our screens today is gathering that exact data (and likely so much more) without the need to wear a little electronic gadget on my belt.
It has probably occurred to nearly everyone who subscribes to streaming media services (such as Netflix) that someone or something cares about what we watch. My role in this process is little more than that of a consumer –or perhaps, a data point– yet I think it would be naive to assume that the metrics that I leave in my wake from what I watch, when I watch, and the exact point when I stop watching whatever it was I was watching, that these data are ignored by the corporation serving me that content.
Now certainly I could veer the direction of this essay into the dark corners of big-data conspiracies and concepts circling the tender target of our diminishing privacy, but no. Rather, I would simply suggest that something uniquely interesting is plausibly happening, or merely possible, from the aggregation of all this information: a truly cooperative experience towards available television content.
I imagine someday that services like Netflix will exist in an economy where storage is virtually unlimited and the limitations of data capacity are a negligible consideration. Today, on the other hand, the ability to deliver anything at all is limited by these considerations, and of course many more kinds of limited resources linked to such complexities as ownership, royalties, and copyrights. A company like Netflix probably exists in a state of forever juggling the ability to maximize the availability of a broad collection of television programming with the general popularity of that programming as a whole… which of course is based on metrics.
When every minute of programming watched counts towards that pool of data, then every minute of programming watched is a vote towards a cooperative, democratically chosen selection of what we want to see… as a whole community of subscribers.
Or, at least that’s how I idealize that it works.