~100 Words #6: The Algorithmic Weight of Children

First: parse this.

One of my favorite essays about the internet is James Bridle’s piece “Something is wrong on the internet.” In it, he describes how the YouTube algorithm is engineered in such a way that it ends up showing toddler-age children increasingly uncanny and unnerving videos any adult would be offput-to-disturbed to see. I have thoughts about how that might translate to the teen and tween content, which this post definitely relates to, but I think it’s also interesting to see what happens when these kids get some agency.

In Bridle’s essay, control goes one way. The screen-entranced 4 year old is force-fed a slew of singing baby elsa’s until the iPad time is over. The “mommy milkers” incident is just one example of a consistent trend of children’s content (a nebulous category itself when the content is a videogame with pretty much every age of player) communities breaking through a weird barrier of relevance and imposing their existence on everyone else. By that I mean, normally, nobody adult cares what is being shown to children because they have no stake in it. When these communities trend, however, they often do so in a way that is nearly unintelligible for the outside viewer. Now instead of the world of children being cordoned off, they share a public sphere of content, leading adults to think along the lines of “oh, you are as relevant to the interests and algorithms of this platform as I am. Maybe I can vote and you cannot, but apparently we both have an equal access to power in the sense of the feed, and that is… I dont like it.”

This wasn’t super well explained, I think I’ll expand on it more later.

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