The Netflix Clinic: (experi) Mental Entertainment in the Age of Psychometrics

by Tomasz Hollanek

The use of data collected through social media and streaming services enables data scientists to uncover specific traits and preferences of individual users. This new scientific belief in big data analysis as a means of examining the complexity of people’s desires – rather than consciously expressed judgements – is transforming, as I argue in this paper, the interactive entertainment interface of the digital era into a new kind of ‘clinic.’ Comparing this way of getting entertained to daydreaming is missing the point, since entertainment in the age of the continuous stream, truly happening anytime and anywhere – or perhaps all the time and everywhere – is the cause of a permanent, technologically induced insomnia, monitored non-stop by a machine. In this paper, I reconsider the idea of the medical gaze for the purpose of contemporary, psychometrics-enhanced entertainment platforms and refer to experimental projects like Netflix’s recent interactive film Bandersnacher – to uncover the structures of the clinic inscribed into the interface.