The ideology of algorithms

I have written about this before, and no doubt will again as it is so important.

Fewer and fewer of us buy newspapers and I can’t remember the last time I watched TV news or listened to the radio. My news comes to me through my various networks on Twitter, Linkedin or Facebook. I like that my news is now messily diverse. I have to work out the truth from a variety of sources. I need to take responsibility for keeping these networks as diverse as I can, avoiding the risk of echo chambers.

The risk of news being steered is not new. Newspapers, and TV in the US have always been funded by advertising. Newspaper moguls have always had vested interests and pushed particular views. Echo chambers are not new – do you choose The Guardian or The Telegraph?

At least now I can avoid my technology platforms using their algorithms to steer me to what they think is newsworthy (or to what gets them the most advertising revenue). I have to invest a bit of time and effort, but as least I can do it. I can create lists in Twitter and Facebook and steer the algorithms with my likes and shares. If any platform becomes too intrusive in its steering of my network I can leave it. I still maintain a set of RSS feeds of smart people, including many journalists, that get me to the good stuff outside of the walled gardens of Facebook or Twitter.

Kevin O’Keefe has picked up on an article by Emily Bell in The Guardian in which she expresses concern at technology platforms’ lack of accountability in steering our news consumption. His response:

“But we ought not be looking to hold Facebook and Twitter accountable for news. We’re going to have to be accountable this time by carefully selecting those we follow and using these media enough to let their algorithms work for us.”

Kevin thinks that we can take responsibility for our understanding of the world. I agree. This will not be easy, many will find it too onerous, and we still have to work out ways of paying for it all, but it does really matter!

One thought on “The ideology of algorithms

  1. I was a news junkie, still am. Was subscribed to 2 national papers and a local, as well as a weekly newsmag, watched tv news frequently. In the nineties. By 2003, a year after I started blogging, I had moved to getting everything I needed from my feedreader, following some 400 people in my network that way, and what they shared. So over a decade now of no ‘formal’ direct news intake. In the past few years I’ve seen a move back in me following more news websites than before. Mostly because of a decline in RSS-trackable shared material from my network: less blogging, less public bookmarking, more walled gardens (that don’t offer rss). So my network is not as easily used as a filter as it was. I’ve added ‘radars’ to the mix: I track all Tweets on certain topics and filter out the URLs mentioned, sorting them by frequency and type. Like tracking the froth on the waves to see what is going on beneath.My network functioning as a filter does put the responsibility on me to make sure there is enough diversity, difference in perspectives, backgrounds etc, to avoid echo chambers. Bubbles radicalize easily, as demonstrated by Dan Gillmor in his review of S-Korean online news communities already in 2003.


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