Spotify wrap, unwrapped

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Spotify spies on us, and we love it.

When Spotify Wrapped was released in 2017, it hit my group chats like breaking news. A friend frantically sent me a screenshot showing that they are in the top 1 percent of the Frank Ocean audience with a message, “You can believe it”, followed by a stream of text from other friends highlighting their streaming appreciation. After a while, people all over the internet are sharing the results of their listening Instagram stories were full of streaming statistics that made fun of either low eyebrow flavors or flexible artistic tendencies. (I admit, I’ve shared my own.)

Spotify originally released their first iteration in 2015 as “Year in Music”, a feature that allows users to look back through the songs and artists they’ve heard the most in their last 365 days. The tool includes statistics on the listeners’ most played songs and the total number of hours they listened to the song. Despite its popularity, Year in Music did not go viral until it was upgraded to a customizable, jazzy graphic release two years later.

Now, Spotify Rapad has become an annual tradition, marking the change of seasons in the same way that Starbucks marks the Holiday Cup or Maria Kerry holidays. But as Spotify’s feature has grown in popularity, so has the growing discourse on algorithms, the use of which has become the standard method on social media and on which Rapad relies.

An algorithm takes a set of inputs and generates an output, similarly turning a recipe ingredients into a cake. Relying on algorithms for Spotify means that it uses data from its customers to create music discovery distributed through playlists. Open Spotify’s home page and you can find any number of curated playlists from user data sources collected from the app, from “Best Songs in the United States” to “Discover Weekly”, which collects personalized data. To create these playlists, Spotify tracks the music you listen to, organizes it into specific categories, measures the tracks against other listeners, and uses that information to choose which music you want to show.

Screenshot from @madisonbeer on Instagram
Singer Madison Bear, who has 28.9 million Instagram followers, shared her 2021 Spotify wrapped up in her story.

Spotify’s algorithmic delivery initially set it apart from other music streaming platforms, often cited as a key factor in the app’s success despite its reliance on tracking data. One of the app’s users, Kiana McBride, 22, told me, “My Discovery Weekly often catches fire. Spotify has so much good data analytics, it can tell you what music I enjoy. “

Although tracking music data does not seem very obscure at first glance, the use of artificial intelligence has been proven to discriminate. The report shows how artificial intelligence can be biased and racism perpetuated. Combined with video technology or security software, algorithms have played an integral role in strengthening surveillance capitalism. There are even reports indicating how the platform feature has been marketed incorrectly and poorly. Still, Spotify Wrap is viral. Our combined passion with this recap reflects how algorithms have become integrated with the way we imagine ourselves in digital consumer culture: brands need to be refined.

P. According to David Marshall, a new media and communications professor at Deakin University and a leading scholar of online identity, the concept of “dual strategic personality” deepens how people interact with what they share on social media. “Dual strategic personality [uses] Sound either way, ”he told me. “Dual, and dual, like the two, means you’ve actually started playing in a place that understands algorithmic transformations.”

Consumers are increasingly realizing that how they use an app affects the kind of content they see, creating a digital two-way consciousness, where “we understand that we are a digital construction” but we also understand that a digital construction is who we are. Connected with him – who we think we are, “said Marshall. In essence, our online self is still an extension of ourselves; It’s not No. A version of personality. At the same time, it is a version that is innately built and functional.

And the nature of the performance, for example, the people on stage are asked to perform endlessly. We strategically create a certain perception of ourselves through snippets that are increasingly refined with the help of Spotify Rapad and other algorithms. For example, sharing a wrapping roundup on social media can place a person in a certain niche: indie; Punk rock If the genres of music are more obscure, the person may find themselves in a hyper-specific niche: foktronica; Cloud wrap; Japanese City Pop.

One user of the app, Alfonso Velasquez, 22, told me he likes to see other people’s Spotify results because by comparison, “it makes him feel more indie.” He is talking about an instinct to create a brand of his own – an instinct derived from an influential culture.

“Influencers live in that dual personality structure, working within a corporate version of themselves and a very distinct version of themselves,” Marshall said. Because of this, they are “changing our broad transnational culture to normal.”

Another user, 21-year-old Isabel Adreva, told me that they see other people’s Spotify results “to take Ricks”.

“If I really respect someone, it’s one of the best songs I’ve ever heard,” he explained.

Many people do not register to receive recommendations from Spotify Wrapped because they are affected. But it is the root of influential culture.

“We’re starting to make variations of what influential people do,” Marshall said. “These become ways to try to understand our online lives, and the way we start, as ordinary people, to reconstruct our perception of a different personality.” When internet celebrities such as singer Madison Bear, star and singer Lauren Gray, or TikTok-viral musician Luffy post their streaming results, the practice is even faster. Spotify Wrapped is just one example of how the habits of influential people, from what they post to how they post, become a specific guidebook for everyone on the internet, regardless of who you follow on social media.

Spotify makes it even easier to participate in this culture. With a single tap, content – already created in different color combinations – can be shared. Dazzling graphics pre-produced. Users can express themselves somewhat through low participation and minimal participation, without worrying about how influential people make their choices and interests to become a brand.

@ Loren’s screenshot on Instagram
Influential Lauren Gray, who has 22.2 million Instagram followers, shared her 2021 Spotify wrapped up in her story.

Perhaps it’s this relentless engagement with instant brand-building rewards that makes the suspicion of tracking your data on the platform relatively pale. “It’s just a song,” Sophronia Baron, 21, a user of the app, told me. “I don’t think it’s a big deal.”

Is it just music, though? Analyzing the back end of the app, a team of five researchers behind the 2019 study “Spotify Teardown: Inside the Black Box of Streaming Music” made it clear that algorithms do not exist in zero. They wrote, “Scholars have shown how the provision of algorithmic content affects gender, race and other classifications. Users are invited – or forced – to turn their listening habits into “taste profiles”, which are measured using a set of parameters.

Spotify has not revealed what these categories are, but academics have confirmed that gender must be one of them. They mentioned that Paul Lammer, director of music intelligence and data platform, Echo Nest (which was acquired by Spotify in 2014), provided data based on gender-based listening habits in a 2014 blog post. Researchers have found that your gender is a mandatory part of the sign-up process for self-reporting platforms, and moreover, Spotify is listed as one of the types of information it collects and shares under their privacy policy.[ing] At least for marketing purposes, this gender is considered essential for the effectiveness of Spotify. “

They also discovered that the company knows your IP address, which means location, nationality and proxy, by social class. Another study by the Bank of England found that Spotify data can even reveal a user’s mood. So, it’s not unreasonable to assume that Spotify can predict a good portion of your socio-economic population, if you listen to specific podcasts like Spotify’s popular can narrow down racial, age and even sexuality. Queriology. (And after a priest’s sex was recently leaked by a Catholic publication through his phone’s location data, it’s clear that this information has real-life consequences.) Spotify then capitalizes by selling that information to companies whose population profiles are similar. Gold

Spotify is certainly not the only company that finds success in marketing algorithms to consumers: everything from Digests, which promises to perfume your home based on your web browsing history, to the most popular social media app TickTock of the moment, all about algorithmic-based viewing and Encourages us to buy ridiculous amounts of things. Meet the AI ​​culture, the new era of digitalized capitalism, where consumers are endlessly stuck in their own feedback loop. When you open an app, you’ll inherently give companies free labor in the form of web traffic, AdSense, and taste profiles, just to sell your profile and user identity for those apps – which are basically you – to others and then, finally, to those companies themselves. Pushes towards algorithmic-based viewing, and we not only hide what their data reveals about us, but we share it with interest for others to see.

We do this in the name of self-branding. Because in the end, we get a more measurable portion to add to our ultra-specific, online personality. For a fleeting moment, we can all be influential. “I like that Spotify is sharing their statistics with you,” said McBride It’s “like you’re an MLB star listening to music.”

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