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Corrupt Personalization: How to Teach to the Algorithm

Corrupt Personalization: How to Teach to the Algorithm
Why is studying algorithmic culture important? What is the most serious repercussion of algorithms filtering our attention? In the post "Corrupt Personalization," Christian Sandvig shows you how to drive more Facebook traffic to your status updates by mentioning certain commercial brands in your online conversations. He does this to criticize the selection algorithms that organize the news feed on social media platforms.

Why is studying algorithmic culture important? What is the most serious repercussion of algorithms filtering our attention? In the post "Corrupt Personalization," Christian Sandvig shows you how to drive more Facebook traffic to your status updates by mentioning certain commercial brands in your online conversations. He does this to criticize the selection algorithms that organize the news feed on social media platforms. These algorithms seem to be serving you via "personalization," but they actually serve Facebook's need to drive attention toward advertising -- a fact that often needs to be demonstrated to students not familiar with this area of work.

To make the point, Sandvig showcases Facebook "link" recycling and the distinction between "organic" (not paid) and inorganic content, proposing that these examples work well when talking to students about the importance of studying algorithmic culture.

This post is the third in a series about the pedagogy of explaining algorithmic culture to people with no background in the area. In the first post, "Think About New Media Algorithmically" he proposed two accessible magazine articles that introduce the idea of algorithms and help frame the question that the selection of content and the subsequent organization of culture, commerce, and social life is an important topic for investigation.

In the second post, "Show-and-Tell: Algorithmic Culture" he presented a set of three hands-on activities that can be done with laptops during a class period that each allow students to experience the benefits and perils of algorithmic sorting using their own Google searches, Facebook account, and DoubleClick profile data.

This most recent post continues the series by focusing on the dangers of algorithmic sorting. The series is ongoing.

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