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Algorithm Literacy in Social Media

November 18, 2014

Algorithms are an inevitable part of life online. They tailor content for us and they can manipulate what we see, read, and do.

This week’s #hcsmca topic was inspired by CBC’s radio show Spark @sparkcbc, episode 259. In this episode Nora Young (@nora3000) interviews Christian Sandvig (@niftyc) about algorithm use in Facebook, search engines, Netflix and more. To prepare for the chat, I highly recommend listening to this 10 minute conversation: Algorithm Awareness [Audio 9:23]

With Zeynep Tufekci (@zeynep), Nora explores the possibility of algorithm manipulation being adopted by Twitter. Listen here. [Audio 8:48]

I’m well aware that algorithm’s influence my search results, the choices I make on Netflix and, most annoying, what I do and don’t see on Facebook. Despite that awareness, I have very low algorithm literacy. I want to learn more about how algorithms shape my social media experience, and how I can game the algorithm and make them work for me.

So I turn to the collective knowledge of #hcsmca. On Wednesday, November 19 at 1pm ET, let’s explore our algorithm literacy and discuss these topics.

  • T1: Are you aware that algorithms affect what you see and are seen on social media?
  • T2: What do you like about algorithms?
  • T3: What don’t you like?
  • T4: Does it change your behaviour on Facebook knowing that it’s algorithms influence your feeds?
  • T5: Do you game algorithms? If so, how?
  1. Hamilton, K., Karahalios, K., Sandvig, C. & Eslami, M. (2014). “A Path to Understanding the Effects of Algorithm Awareness.” In CHI Extended Abstracts on Human Factors in Computing Systems (alt.CHI). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 631-642.
  2. Sandvig, C., Hamilton, K., Karahalios, K., & Langbort, C. (2014). “Auditing Algorithms: Research Methods for Detecting Discrimination on Internet Platforms.” Paper presented to “Data and Discrimination,” a pre-conference of the 64th annual meeting of the International Communication Association, Seattle, WA, USA.
  3. Sandvig, C. (2014). “Corrupt Personalization.” (Blog Post)
  4. Tufekci, Z (2014). Why Twitter Should Not Algorithmically Curate the Timeline (Blog Post)
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