Considerable scholarship has established that algorithms are an increasingly important part of what information people encounter in everyday life. Much less work has focused on studying users’ experiences with, understandings of, and attitudes about how algorithms may influence what they see and do. The dearth of research on this topic may be in part due to the difficulty in studying a subject about which there is no known ground truth given that details about algorithms are proprietary and rarely made public. In this talk, I will report on the methodological challenges of studying people’s algorithm skills based on 83 in-person interviews conducted in five countries. I will also discuss the types of algorithm skills identified from our data. The talk will advocate for more such scholarship to accompany existing system-level analyses of algorithms’ social implications and offers a blue print for how to do this.
About the Speaker:
Eszter Hargittai is Professor and Chair of Internet Use and Society at the Institute of Communication and Media Research, University of Zurich. Previously, she was the Delaney Family Professor in the Communication Studies Department at Northwestern University. In 2019, she was elected Fellow of the International Communication Association and also received the William F. Ogburn Mid-Career Achievement Award from the American Sociological Association’s section on Communication, Information Technology and Media Sociology. For over two decades, she has been researching people’s Internet uses and skills, and how these relate to questions of social inequality.