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Labor, classification and productions of culture on Netflix

Diana Floegel (School of Communication and Information, Rutgers The State University of New Jersey, New Brunswick, New Jersey, USA)

Journal of Documentation

ISSN: 0022-0418

Article publication date: 8 October 2020

Issue publication date: 24 December 2020




This paper examines promotional practices Netflix employs via Twitter and its automated recommendation system in order to deepen our understanding of how streaming services contribute to sociotechnical inequities under capitalism.


Tweets from two Netflix Twitter accounts as well as material features of Netflix's recommendation system were qualitatively analyzed using inductive analysis and the constant comparative method in order to explore dimensions of Netflix's promotional practices.


Twitter accounts and the recommendation system profit off people's labor to promote content, and such labor allows Netflix to create and refine classification practices wherein both people and content are categorized in inequitable ways. Labor and classification feed into Netflix's production of culture via appropriation on Twitter and algorithmic decision-making within both the recommendation system and broader AI-driven production practices.

Social implications

Assemblages that include algorithmic recommendation systems are imbued with structural inequities and therefore unable to be fixed by merely diversifying cultural industries or retooling algorithms on streaming platforms. It is necessary to understand systemic injustices within these systems so that we may imagine and enact just alternatives.


Findings demonstrate that via surveillance tactics that exploit people's labor for promotional gains, enforce normative classification schemes, and culminate in normative cultural productions, Netflix engenders practices that regulate bodies and culture in ways that exemplify interconnections between people, machines, and social institutions. These interconnections further reflect and result in material inequities that crystalize within sociotechnical processes.



The author would like to thank [Dr. K. Costello and Nicole E. Weber] for peer-debriefing and edits.


Floegel, D. (2021), "Labor, classification and productions of culture on Netflix", Journal of Documentation, Vol. 77 No. 1, pp. 209-228.



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Copyright © 2020, Emerald Publishing Limited

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