It was Spotify Wrapped week last week, when those of us who didn’t do the honourable thing and decamp to Tidal following the Joe Rogan fiasco, had some data on our listening habits summarised in a nicely shareable format. It’s kind of fun of course, but it was interesting to look at mine as it was largely unrepresentative. I buy vinyl, so most of my music listening is in that format. It seems I mainly use Spotify to listen to Songs:Ohia/Magnolia Electric Co (top 1% of listeners worldwide folks), when I’m driving on my own or feeling a bit sad.
I buy my vinyl in a physical record shop (Spillers!) so even that purchasing activity is largely hidden from the algorithms. As this piece argues, Spotify are selling surveillance as fun, so it feels like a micro rebellion to dodge the accuracy of the algorithm. Of course, in reality I am spending hundreds of pounds to stick it to the man but slightly messing with the data for an algorithm I don’t need to sign up for in the first place. But it’s an example of why we should remember that more important algorithms (eg ones that determine credit scores, immigration status, benefits, job applications, etc) only report part of the picture and huge chunks which could be relevant may be missing.
There is a whole movement of living off the grid, but even without taking such extreme measures, it seems that young people are more aware of privacy and surveillance that is often assumed. So let’s hear it for the occasional analogue micro-rebellion. I’ve even taken to wearing my automatic wristwatch and shelved the Apple watch for now. But yes, I’ve got an iPhone in my pocket at all times. Let’s not go overboard, eh?