Nothing personal: algorithmic individuation on music streaming platforms

Robert Prey*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

    57 Citations (Scopus)
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    Raymond Williams once wrote, ‘… there are in fact no masses, but only ways of seeing people as masses’. In an age of personalized media, the word ‘masses’ seems like an anachronism. Nevertheless, if Williams were to study contemporary online platforms, he would no doubt conclude that there are in fact no individuals, but only ways of seeing people as individuals. This article explores this idea by taking a closer look at online music streaming services. It first conducts a comparison of how two leading streaming platforms conceive of the individual music listener. Then, drawing from Gilbert Simondon’s theory of individuation, it demonstrates how ways of seeing the individual work to enact the individual on these platforms. In particular, ways of seeing are heavily influenced by the consumer categories that are defined and demanded by advertisers. This article concludes with an examination of how commercial imperatives shape ‘ways of seeing’ and ‘algorithmic individuation’ on music streaming platforms.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1086-1100
    Number of pages15
    JournalMedia, Culture & Society
    Issue number7
    Publication statusPublished - Oct-2018


    • algorithm
    • algorithmic individuation
    • Gilbert Simondon
    • music streaming
    • Pandora Internet Radio
    • personalization
    • Raymond Williams
    • Spotify

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