Pros and Cons of Algorithmic Curation

Friday, March 11, 2016 - 17:00
Mon, 02/29/2016 to Mon, 03/07/2016

Last week, we focused on search technologies and information design that improves the Internet for everyone. However, not everyone is the same, and not everyone has the same interests. Recommender systems have been used to algorithmically curate collections of content that are personalized to each individual. Many companies, such as Google, Facebook, Netflix, and Pandora use these systems to create personalized content just for you that caters to exactly what you like. Additionally, many systems such as Facebook and Twitter allow you to customize and personalize your experience by controlling who you friend/follow and only getting content shared by those people. Eli Pariser (and others) claim that these technologies are creating individual "Filter Bubbles" that prevent people from seeing information that is outside their comfort zone or that challenges their views.

Traditionally, human editors have been responsible for controlling and curating content: choosing which stories get produced and grouped together into a section, newspaper, magazine, or news program. These personalization technologies change this to having computers doing most of the work choosing and grouping content, but allow the content to be personalized to each individual reading the news.

This week, your essay should be an opinion piece outlining what you see as the pros and cons of algorithmic curation. Do you think this is a positive trend? Is this really giving consumers the news they really want? Is this making it more difficult for journalists to get their word out? Is it putting human editors / producers out of business? Is it enabling niche journalists to better connect with their audience?

Your essay should identify both pros and cons to this development. Think hard about this. Don't just answer the questions in the previous paragraph; instead, think through how these are being used right now and come up with additional ways that these technologies are having an impact on the world -- or might have an impact in the future. For each of the pros/cons you identify, clearly explain what you think is happening and why you think this is a pro or a con. Use concrete examples as much as possible.

Your essay must be entered into the system by the Friday of spring break (3/11) at 5pm. It should be in the neighborhood of 300-500 words, and include a relevant image at the top of the article.

Over the weekend or on Monday, be sure to log into the class system. Try to read all of the stories from your fellow students, and (optionally) leave comments to the author about the essay. You will be assigned as a "Discussant" for one of the essays. Read that essay carefully; you will be asked to present that essay on Monday to the rest of the class. You will also "discuss" it by describing whether you agree with the argument in the essay or not, and why you think this example is interesting to think about (or not). Try to include both praise and criticism in your discussion.


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Karen Hopper

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filter bubble

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