11: Algorithmic Audiences

Overall, I think my view of algorithms as audience has been negative in the past. I definitely agree with Ashleigh that it can be frustrating to change your writing to appeal to the algorithms that will ultimately help your real audience find your work, and I think it can be frustrating to be the one searching for things because of the way algorithms work as well.

One aspect of algorithms that I have experience with is the way that “social media companies use algorithms to structure what users see in their newsfeeds” (25). Many social media (like Instagram) have restructured the way the newsfeed of each user works so that instead of using chronological order, they use an unknown algorithm to show users what they think they want to see. I personally find social media that work this way very frustrating to use, especially when those algorithms include content from people that I don’t follow. In the article Gallagher discusses Facebook’s algorithm, and how a student might take advantage of it to reach a wider audience by gaining likes or commenting, and while that is true I think many people who use media that have algorithms like that find it annoying when something that is obviously being promoted or purposely being put on their newsfeeds shows up.

I learned a lot from the article because it gave a lot of specific details on algorithms, like the different programs media use (PageRank for Google, EdgeRank for Facebook, etc); I think it would be easier to figure out how one media’s algorithms work and make use of that than it would be to try using lots of different media to reach more people, because everything uses a different system. I also appreciated that the article mentioned that algorithms involves “the biases of people who program and can change algorithms without warning” (28) because I think there is a tendency to assume that algorithms are only run by machines and many people don’t think about how they could be biased against certain audiences or types of content.

Discussion Questions:

  • How do you begin researching the algorithms of a specific media and what are some effective ways to structure or restructure your work with algorithmic audiences in mind?
  • How can you recognize and discuss instances of bias in algorithmic audiences? What can be done to limit the ways bias influences algorithms and the things you (as the user of a media) see?

Word Count: 406

Works Cited

Gallagher, John R. “Writing for Algorithmic Audiences.” Computers and Composition2017, p. 25-35.