Are we too passive as the internet distorts our world view?
Curtin University Associate Professor of internet studies Michele Willson is the latest academic to question the impact of algorithms and recommender systems on our “everyday experience of the real world”.
In a study published by the journal Information, Communication & Society this week, Willson argues that web and social media giants have “considerable power to shape lives and outcomes” as a consequence of the way they tailor their offerings to users.
“Many of the algorithms we encounter daily are proprietary owned – and thus opaque and inaccessible to outside critique; and their parameters, intent and assumptions indiscernible,” Willson writes.
“And yet the working of algorithms has wide-ranging consequences for the shape and direction of our everyday.
“When organisations have the technical skills and the data resources readily at hand, the consequences of their algorithmic practices can be far-reaching.”
Algorithms have become central to the way information is “located, retrieved and presented online”, she argues. They govern Twitter follow recommendations, Facebook newsfeeds and suggested Google map directions.
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