Journalist Tom Vanderbilt tries to crack the taste code by researching where museums hang paintings, how Netflix tracks viewer preferences, how the US Army makes “Meals, Ready-to-Eat,” and other examples. Accurately predicting customer preferences is the holy grail for online retailers and services. Companies like Netflix and Amazon maintain a significant market advantage in this quest, thanks to the mountains of data they continually collect on customer behavior and preferences. The inexact nature of taste itself bedevils all predictive efforts: Even customers don’t seem to know why they like what they like.
About the Author
Tom Vanderbilt is visiting scholar at NYU’s Rudin Center for Transportation Policy and Management, a research fellow at the Canadian Centre for Architecture and a fellow at the Design Trust for Public Space. He is also a contributing editor to Wired (UK), Outside and Artforum.