Are Spotify’s Vibes the End of Segregated Listening?

06 Oct, 2022

Are Spotify’s Vibes the End of Segregated Listening?

Our faculty member Tom McEnaney published the article "Are Spotify’s Vibes the End of Segregated Listening?" with Kaitlyn Todd in Public Books, a magazine of ideas, arts, and scholarship.

If Spotify claims the shift from genres to vibes is a new way to organize a sense of community, maybe it’s worth questioning how their data organizes vibes. If we understand the algorithm better, maybe we’ll understand the potential consequences of becoming vibes listeners.

From the article:

It’s worth recognizing the difference between aggregated listening and listening together. Spotify’s aggregated listening bases recommendations, as the platform tell users, on its “editors,” its algorithm, and, “in some cases, commercial considerations.” The platform’s ambition to “curate for culture” is meant to sell things, to produce a portrait of the music world that enough users want to pay for. Other platforms, like Bandcamp, take a different approach, one skeptical of “algorithmic cultural determinism.”

In the compromises of platform life, we’re caught in that negotiation Robin James attaches to vibe. To participate in that negotiation—rather than just buy what they’re selling—you need a community of listeners, restless and skeptical, eager to hear something different from someone new, aware of the roles we play in making patterns for ourselves, with others.

To read the full article, please visit here.