Culture is future » Innovation and digital


Contribution: Big Data, a big opportunity for culture? by Pascal Lechevallier

The United States Congress recently voted a law to facilitate the sharing of social information; more precisely to simplify the sharing of Netflix and Hulu subscribers’ cultural preferences on Facebook. 

Exploiting personal data has become somewhat of a standard, to the point where marketing leaders of internet giants don’t need to go looking for information anymore, as it is put online willingly by the users. But what these internet consumers don’t know is what these websites actually do with this information. Do they have the right to exploit our cultural tastes in order to develop their commercial strategies?

This question deserves to be asked, as up until now, the VPPA (Video Privacy Protection Act), voted in 1988 under president Reagan, aimed at preventing the sharing of personal data, regarding the rental of a video, with a third party (outside of the video store and the customer), rentals being at that time the main mode of film consumption in the country. The law was voted following the public disclosure of the list of films rented by Judge Robert Bork, during his nomination for Supreme Court.

The amendment of the VPPA is thus a big win for Netflix, who carried out intense lobbying for several years. Today, all Netflix subscribers will be able to share their video consumption on Facebook: “Social sharing is an excellent way to help one’s friends discover new things to watch”, Netflix leaders explain.

Actually, it’s also a clever way to get your subscribers to endorse a marketing operation, as they become the ambassadors of the website’s contents, without Netflix having to spend a single dime. All you need, for instance, is for a subscriber to watch the first episode of the Netflix-produced show “House of Cards” and share this information with his friends, and they will be aware of the show, and probably tempted to watch it. And so on… Social word of mouth is about to take over from referrals and recommendations, which could mean trouble for critics and other observers…  

Personal cultural data: more powerful than an algorithm, cheaper than an advertising campaign. In an era where cultural industries (cinema, music and literature) are confronted to an unprecedented crisis, the ubiquitous use of personal cultural data could actually provide a second wind for culture, a digital wind.

So it’s no surprise to see the World Economic Forum publish a report this year dedicated to personal data, entitled “Unlocking the Value of Personal Data: from collection to usage”, and the prestigious M.I.T. Media Lab contributing to it through professor Alex ‘Sandy’ Pentland.

Professor Pentland recently wrote: “the circulation of information is a central element for the understanding and the construction of this new world”. With, however, a few precautions which he defines as “a new agreement regarding data” that relies on three principles: you have a right to own your data, to control the way in which it is used and to destroy or share it as you wish.


It has to be said, big up to digital culture!


About Pascal Lechevallier


Pascal Lechevallier manages a firm specialized in new media. He supports audiovisual and media professionals in setting up innovative digital strategies. Pascal Lechevallier is the founder of TF1Vision, TF1 group’s VOD service.


His website

On Twitter : @PLechevallier


Photo credits : Netflix