Tubes and Bubbles

Topological confinement of recommendations on YouTube

(image source, courtesy of DuckDuckGo)

Supplemental material to the article published in PLOS ONE by Camille Roth, Antoine Mazieres and Telmo Menezes

Made in Berlin at Centre Marc Bloch (CNRS / Humboldt) | Computational Social Science teamContact



The role of recommendation algorithms in online user confinement is at the heart of a fast-growing literature. Recent empirical studies generally suggest that filter bubbles may principally be observed in the case of explicit recommendation (based on user-declared preferences) rather than implicit recommendation (based on user activity). We focus on YouTube which has become a major online content provider but where confinement has until now been little-studied in a systematic manner. Starting from a diverse number of seed videos, we first describe the properties of the sets of suggested videos in order to design a sound exploration protocol able to capture latent recommendation graphs recursively induced by these suggestions. These graphs form the background of potential user navigations along non-personalized recommendations. From there, be it in topological, topical or temporal terms, we show that the landscape of what we call mean-field YouTube recommendations is often prone to confinement dynamics. Moreover, the most confined recommendation graphs i.e., potential bubbles, seem to be organized around sets of videos that garner the highest audience and thus plausibly viewing time.