Netflix and the design of the audience

The homogenous constraints of data-driven personalization


  • Jeremy Ryan Matthew Coquitlam College



Affordances, agency, design, digital media, Netflix, techno-social systems


This paper explores how audiences engage with Netflix as an intermediary in their digital lives, and how Netflix, as it is designed, creates a highly constrained system for its users. The paper is based on a study of observed use and discussions with Netflix users. It explores the limitations that are designed into Netflix as a digital media platform, and how Netflix users engage with this system that obscures rather than clarifies the contents of the platform. The paper discusses examples of frustration, confusion, and misdirection that Netflix, as a heavily constrained system, cultivates. It argues that the thoughts, feelings, and desires of audiences are not reflected in the data-driven design of digital media platforms like Netflix. Instead, data are used by Netflix to design a personalized environment that acts as a set of blinders which constrain the agency of the audience through an interface designed to dazzle and disorient Netflix users.


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How to Cite

Matthew, J. R. (2020). Netflix and the design of the audience: The homogenous constraints of data-driven personalization. MedieKultur: Journal of Media and Communication Research, 36(69), 052–070.