Recommended for you: The Netflix Prize and the production of algorithmic culture

Blake Hallinan*, Ted Striphas

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

298 Scopus citations


How does algorithmic information processing affect the meaning of the word culture, and, by extension, cultural practice? We address this question by focusing on the Netflix Prize (2006–2009), a contest offering US$1m to the first individual or team to boost the accuracy of the company’s existing movie recommendation system by 10%. Although billed as a technical challenge intended for engineers, we argue that the Netflix Prize was equally an effort to reinterpret the meaning of culture in ways that overlapped with, but also diverged in important respects from, the three dominant senses of the term assayed by Raymond Williams. Thus, this essay explores the conceptual and semantic work required to render algorithmic information processing systems legible as forms of cultural decision making. It also then represents an effort to add depth and dimension to the concept of “algorithmic culture.”

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)117-137
Number of pages21
JournalNew Media and Society
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2016
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014, © The Author(s) 2014.


  • Algorithm
  • Netflix
  • Raymond Williams
  • algorithmic culture
  • culture
  • data
  • movies
  • ratings
  • recommendation
  • taste


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