Big Mood Machine

Spotify pursues emotional surveillance for global profit

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thanks so much for sharing this. this is basically why I don’t use Spotify, which is one of the privacy tradeoffs that I’ve made that people actually give me a hard time about!!!

also this piece makes me think about something I think about a lot, which is how I think we should reframe some of the conversation about privacy to be about attention. we are definitely giving up privacy for all this convenience and personalization, no question. but it’s hard to get people to care about that as much as we wish they would because so much the loss of privacy is intangible. but the loss of ATTENTION is something that I think is easier to identify. people generally do not want to live in a society where we are all engrossed in our phones (even if we are the ones doing it! we all hate it!). we do not want these apps to take over. we want to be able to read and think and enjoy the sunshine, and we are becoming less and less capable of that as our emotions are monetized.

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It’d be a cool idea to do a timeline of attention-deficit. There has always been the fear we’d lost inter-personal communications with the advent of technology. I’ve seen articles going back a 100 years talking about how people no longer speak face to face (faces in newspapers or pulp paperbacks). I wonder how far that fear goes back, it’d be an interesting lineage to trace. This is coming from someone who got distracted at least a dozen times writing this small post.

@_TJ Did you read The Attention Merchants? I loved it.

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I try to give my kids my full attention for at least 20 minutes every day with no phone. It is hard! I’m good at playing with cars for about 5 minutes, and then I’m dying to just check Twitter for a moment…

Would people be willing to participate in a library program if one of the requirements was to leave your phone at the door?


I haven’t but it’s Tim Wu. And I just got it off the shelf here at the library. Once I get through the Reich book I’m on I’ll tackle that next!

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On a related note. UGH

Thinking about how my iPhone gives me a weekly update on screen time +/-. Vague pings of happiness when I’m informed that my screen time decreased for the week. Guilt when informed my weekly screen time increased. I know I could get way granular and start restricting a ton of things on my phone but ultimately I ignore the voluntary limits.

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Absolutely, attention is becoming a scarce commodity, and I agree with @alison, we hate that people are engrossed on the phone all the time, but it is so difficult not to be up to date with what is happening because otherwise, you are not in the conversation, you feel outside the trends and after the obsession you will need some kind of digital rehab or detox, it happens to me.

This increasing “economy of attention” really worries me, the need to be on the spotlight on the internet more than in real life, more likes, more reactions, more visits, at any cost, which means giving your privacy.

@CarolynGlauda, It also happened to me with my little nephew, we gave him a tablet to keep him entertained until I saw how he tried to throw all his books saying that he no longer needs it, he wisely said: “But you are also on the phone all the time” :frowning:

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It remains to be seen how Spotify could leverage such tech to maintain its reputation as a mood-boosting platform. And yet we should admit that it’s good for business for Spotify to manipulate people’s emotions on the platform toward feelings of chillness, contentment, and happiness. This has immense consequences for music, of course, but what does it mean for news and politics and culture at large, as the platform is set to play a bigger role in mediating all of the above, especially as its podcasting efforts grow?

I agree with the points that everyone has made on the attention economy and with the emotional manipulation that goes along with engaging in these systems and tools. As these tools become better at learning and targeting our moods, our decisions and experiences may end up based off of data and/or states that we find ourselves in because machines are playing to our emotional landscape rather than our intellectual one (–or, what I consider likely best is a balance between the two). It is interesting to me that Spotify’s reputation is a mood-boosting platform that manipulates “toward feelings of chillness, contentment, and happiness;” why those emotions? Does it make more vulnerable consumers? And, if they know how to engineer towards those emotions, certainly there is an understanding of how to manipulate towards anxiety, rage and anger? Isn’t it actually a normal part of the human experience to be unhappy?-- If we force ourselves to ignore some of the unpleasant emotions, doesn’t that usually result in some sort of harm and/or prevent necessary emotional growth needed in order to function? And when it comes to learning and understanding our world, the same sort of principle applies: don’t we need to be challenged in order to grow in our understanding? If we are constantly comfortable, complacency results. IMHO the more adept that these tools become at understanding, creating and/or engaging these “moods,” the more fractured our news, political and cultural landscape will become – all of this seems like such a hefty price to pay for a solid DJ.


Soft, pliable, and ready to make some purchases!!!

That one is Facebook’s business model.


Picture me blowing an airhorn at this entire post because you NAILED IT!!!