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Netflix at the Nexus

Content, Practice, and Production in the Age of Streaming Television

Edited By Theo Plothe and Amber M. Buck

Netflix’s meteoric rise as an online content provider has been well documented and much debated in the popular press and in academic circles as an industry disrupter, while also blamed for ending TV’s "Golden Age." For academic researchers, Netflix exists at the nexus of multiple fields: internet research, information studies, media studies, and television and has an impact on the creation of culture and how individuals relate to the media they consume. Netflix at the Nexus examines Netflix’s broad impact on technology and television from multiple perspectives, including the interface, the content, and user experiences. Chapters by leading international scholars in television and internet studies provide a transnational perspective on Netflix’s changing role in the media landscape. As a whole, this collection provides a comprehensive consideration of the impact of streaming television.

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Chapter 2. Netflix, Imagined Affordances, and the Illusion of Control (Annette Markham / Simona Stavrova / Max Schlüter)


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Annette Markham, Simona Stavrova, and Max Schlüter


In our everyday interactions with technology, we are often told that we are “in control.” For example, Twitter’s TOS (Terms of Service) assure us we can control the distribution of our content through our account settings. Facebook’s FAQs likewise explain how we can easily control the content we see in News Feed by adjusting our preferences. In both examples, “control” as a term connotes actual as well as perceived agency, which can be exercised in relation to these platforms through application settings, choices, and actions available to us. However, the outcomes of these actions are influenced by many other mediating factors. At the surface, the distance between perceived and actual agency might tell us something about how platforms such as Netflix obscure or make invisible the actual decisions being made on behalf of users. Moving to a deeper level of analysis, we can explore what critical organizational theorists Deetz (1992) and Mumby (1988) would call “deep structures” of meaning, where various threads from the software, machine learning, and stakeholder decisions weave patterns that build and reify particular meanings around the agential interaction between user and interface in ways that are not easily (if at all) untangled. ← 29 | 30 →

The purpose of this chapter is to explore the infrastructure and affordances of the Netflix platform through the lens of control....

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