Algorithms and Filter Bubbles – time to think again

While I am studying, I have also been working as a sessional academic, and this semester I have been really fortunate to work with Kate Davis who is the co-ordinator and teacher of Social Technologies through QUT. I am playing a very minor role; popping in and out of the online community, and marking some of the students’ work, but I have really enjoyed taking this different perspective of social technologies, as this subject is part of the Bachelor of Information Technology; it’s the first subject I’ve been involved it outside of the school of Education. One of Kate’s areas of special interest is the information experience  of individuals through social media; and the article she wrote and shared with the students about this topic got me thinking about my own information experience. I wrote this response to her article for the students, but wanted to share it here as well; not only to ask for comments from my PLN, but also just to record my thoughts on this morning.

In response to Kate’s article;

I too seldom hear the news in the morning, and tend to go to various social media sites when I wake up to find out what has happened in the world during the night…and this morning, in the wake of the terrible attacks in Brussels, my Twitter and Facebook feeds were full of #prayforBrussels and #JeSuisBrussels; but when I went to read further on news sites, I noted also that there were articles about how #stopislam was trending across the world. As my Facebook and Twitter feeds are populated by people that I have actively chosen to follow, I was glad that this negative hashtag which only serves to exacerbate the misinformation and hatred terrorists love did not appear in my social media streams. However, it did act as a reminder to me that my news sources are shaped by my informants; and the people that I choose to follow and connect with may be serving as an echo-chamber, providing me only with the news I want to hear, and the world in a light I want to imagine it as.

When we rely on social media as our news source, we must be aware of the algorithms that tell us what is ‘trending’. How are these algorithms created, and what purposes have they been created to achieve? There is an essay by Tarleton Gillespie titled Trending is Trending; it looks at how algorithms inform a lot of our information experience; it’s pretty heavy and academic, but the jist of it is this: when algorithms are used to identify what is important information and what should be considered newsworthy, they are actually creating our culture; we need to take these tools seriously, because they are what is determining what we read, hear, understand, know. Do we trust the creators of these algorithms? Should we? If you are interested, the whole essay is here:

This aligns with the idea of filter bubbles; how the internet uses information about ourselves to present to us what it predicts we want to see; this great video of this by the expert of filter bubbles, Eli Pariser is always interesting no matter how many times you’ve seen it before:

Thanks for reading; and maybe hug someone today; the world needs more peace :-).

One thought on “Algorithms and Filter Bubbles – time to think again”

  1. Another great post! In a way it’s perfect to chose what and who you read, especially in your example where I think few would want to take part in the hateful messages that flood parts of the social medias. If Netflix’s House of Cards is correct then politicians will use algorithms as a way to use words that possible voters adhere to and to follow latest trends among users to determine political statements. It is an important issue to discuss with everybody because I think a lot of us (me included) have felt rather safe although what we see online is heavily influenced by things we hardly understand.

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