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Impactful Algorithms

August 16, 2021 Jim Warner
animation featuring a profile moving through a digital landscape

It’s safe to say that the age-old debate between free will and pre-determination never considered social media, let alone algorithms. The role and purpose this technology plays in our daily digital life has become not only yoked to our habits; they blur the line between passive and active decision-making. For those who knew a time before Google or Instagram, some recommendations may feel intrusive, but what of those born within the internet age?

Like any generation gap, Gen Xers and baby boomers may think millennials fully understand computers, but just because millennials have experienced tech since the cradle doesn’t make them experts. For example, all Gen Xers can’t explain television broadcast tech, and all boomers aren’t mechanics. Much like television or cars, the internet is just another facet of our life.

Consider algorithms in this context. While we work, stream, shop, and post, algorithms are working just below the surface. Narrowing these decisions may seem like an unconscious act. It does call into question our algorithm awareness and what influence we have on our decisions.

Exploring the impact of algorithms on students is at the heart of a study conducted by UofL Assistant Professor of Practice, Abby Koenig, PhD. The findings appeared late last year in Computers and Composition. In her report, students indicated a surface-level awareness of algorithmic platforms. That response deepened when asked to reflect and write about their experiences.

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