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The algorithms know me and I know them: Using student journals to uncover algorithmic literacy awareness

Computers and Composition. November 18, 2020

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Algorithmic platforms (Facebook, Google, Amazon) have become ubiquitous in our digital communication practices. While some users may be nominally aware of the role that algorithmic processes play in their lives, few understand the basic functions of algorithmic platforms and the influence these platforms have on their lives from a critical and rhetorical perspective. To understand how users engage with algorithmic platforms and what awarenesses the user has of the algorithmic platform, a classroom study was conducted on two groups of technical and professional communication students. Students created media journals, in which they explored and reflected on their own algorithmic engagements. The results of these journals indicate that students do have some basic awareness of the functionality of algorithmic platforms, but until they were asked to compose about their engagements, their awareness was surface-level. When they were able to reflect on their own engagements, the students moved towards a more critical and rhetorical response. The implications of these findings support previous research on the unique link between writing and learning; when students are asked to write about their algorithmic awareness, there is the possibility for improved algorithmic literacy practices.