How The Netflix Hit Movie Illustrates Big Data And The Users Who Trust It

Earlier in the month of January, Netflix released an interactive movie titled Black Mirror: Bandersnatch. It was a compelling and ground-breaking experience due to its interactive nature. While watching the movie, viewers were prompted to make seemingly innocuous decisions that influenced the direction and action being displayed. These decisions continued throughout the entire movie and culminated into one of five endings. Truly, this was an immersive and revolutionary experience.

However, as the movie continued to gain traction within the media and millions upon millions of reviews for the movie poured in, I began to wonder what answers some people may have chosen. I know which ones I chose (#TeamFrostedFlakes) but how did they relate to others, and what questions resulted in which endings. To know this answer, the data would need to be calculated and delivered as a survey.

But…what if the movie was the survey?

Has Netflix tracked our answers? It would seem so, since a collection of answers were necessary to unravel each respective ending. What were the right answers? Were there right answers? What did Netflix do with all that data?

My thoughts began to spin and I wondered if I could participate in the experience without answering anything. Sadly, I could not. After a given amount of time, the movie would auto-select an answer for you. The only way to not participate in the giant “survey-turned-movie” was to turn off the program.

This is exactly like the current software environment.

If someone wishes to use a piece of software they must agree to the terms and conditions of that software and its use. Symbolically, it means we checkmark the little box marked “I agree with the terms and conditions” prior to install. Realistically, IT Asset Managers understand it means so much more. At IAITAM we advocate knowing, understanding, and negotiating each of those software license contracts but the reality is that we can’t catch them all. And there is this ubiquitous trust amongst end users that resign to the idea that if they are to use a piece of software, they must comply. Just like if they want to watch the movie, they must select some answers.

User data, purchase preferences, store preferences, etc. have become the de facto “currency of the day”. Every organization imaginable has some form of rewards card or rebate system that provides an incentive to shoppers to provide the organization with their purchase data. It is not outside the realm of possibility that this movie, its data, and other movies like it that are forthcoming, will culminate in a massive collection of data that Netflix will sell to other partnered organizations. This is why IT Asset Managers are important, their mindset, and the skills they bring to a company. The average user will simply select “I agree”, while the IT Asset Manager will want to know “why”.

Sounds a little “Black Mirror”, doesn’t it?