Exploring the grammar of Netflix in The Atlantic

A journalist with The Atlantic has used AntConc — a concordance program by CASS affiliate scholar Laurence Anthony — to deconstruct and reconstruct the grammar of Netflix genre descriptions.

“If you use Netflix, you’ve probably wondered about the specific genres that it suggests to you. Some of them just seem so specific that it’s absurd. Emotional Fight-the-System Documentaries? Period Pieces About Royalty Based on Real Life? Foreign Satanic Stories from the 1980s? If Netflix can show such tiny slices of cinema to any given user, and they have 40 million users, how vast did their set of “personalized genres” need to be to describe the entire Hollywood universe?”

By creating the genres loaded into Netflix as a corpus, Alexis C. Madrigal was able to identify patterns in the data, and to autogenerate new theoretical genres based on popular adjectives and subjects, such as:

  • Deep Sea Father-and-Son Period Pieces Based on Real Life Set in the Middle East For Kids
  • Assassination Bounty-Hunter Secret Society Dramas Based on Books Set in Europe About Fame For Ages 8 to 10
  • Post-Apocalyptic Comedies About Friendship

To read more about this application of a concordancer and corpus linguistic methods, as well as the resulting interview with Todd Yellin, Netflix’s VP of Product and the man responsible for the creation of Netflix’s tagging system, read the full article on The AtlanticHow Netflix Reverse Engineered Hollywood