David Beer on Facebook's "experiment" and what it reveals about the power of algorithms to shape our lives and perception.
Artur Alves's insight:
« Rather than being an exception, the Facebook news feed revelations might actually be understood as just one revealing example of the embedded part that algorithms now play in our lives. The power of algorithms is to be found in the way that they sort, filter and manipulate the things that we encounter. This is not new. This is part of an established set of media infrastructures in which we now live – the power of which has been escalating over recent years with the incorporation of mobile devices into our bodily practices, with new types of mediated consumption, streaming, and the general rise of data accumulation and extraction. If we pause to reflect, we can begin to imagine the scale of influence that algorithms are now capable of having upon our lives. Algorithms define what is visible to us. The result is that they have the power to shape our tastes, to reconfigure our interests and to potentially define how we understand and engage with the world around us. (...) But what emerges from the Facebook news feed story is the critical point that these algorithmic media forms are not neutral. That is to say, it is not just when they are explicitly being used to manipulate emotions that they have consequences. These algorithms are always filtering and sorting, and as such, they are making decisions about what is visible. These are active systems that shape our encounters and our everyday experiences. In many instances they are largely invisible within the technical structures of which they are a part. Each of these algorithmic processes might look inconsequential: a recommendation of a TV show here, or a suggestion of who to follow there. But taken collectively, we can see their potential power. «