fat news


Catching up with an article in last Saturday’s Guardian magazine, about whether the YouTube algorithm (the behind-the-scenes formula that directs you to new material) is biased towards particular kinds of content. Did it, in the last election, direct people to Trump-friendly videos, whilst drowning Clinton in wild conspiracy theories? Along the way there’s a quotation that takes me back to our conference on ‘Eating Words‘ (shortly to appear from Routledge as an essay collection):

‘This is a bit like an autopilot cafeteria in a school that has figured out children have sweet teeth, and also like fatty and salty foods … So you make a line offering such food, automatically loading the next plate as soon as the bag of chips or candy in front of the young person has been consumed’.

It’s not a subtle connection–anyone who has ever engaged in ‘binge-viewing’ will be attuned to the connection between visual content and food. The troubling idea here is automation, and the idea that humans might absent themselves entirely from the process of deciding what consumers get to see/eat. Still, I’m looking forward to the day when news comes with warning labels about its fat and salt content.

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