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Title:"I always assumed that I wasn't really that close to [her]": Reasoning about invisible algorithms in the news feed
Author(s):Eslamimehdiabadi, Motahareh; Rickman, Aimee; Vaccaro, Kristen; Sandvig, Christian; Hamilton, Kevin; Karahalios, Karrie
News Feeds
Abstract:Our daily digital life is full of algorithmically selected contentsuch as social media feeds, recommendations and personal-ized search results. These algorithms have great power toshape users’ experiences yet users are often unaware of theirpresence. Whether it is useful to give users insight into thesealgorithms’ existence or functionality and how such insightmight affect their experience are open questions. To addressthem, we conducted a user study with 40 Facebook users toexamine their perceptions of the Facebook News Feed cura-tion algorithm. Surprisingly, more than half of the partici-pants (62.5%) were not aware of the News Feed algorithm atall. Initial reactions for these previously unaware participantswere surprise and anger. We developed a system,FeedVis,to reveal to users the difference between the algorithmicallycurated and an unadulterated News Feed, and used it to studyhow users perceive this difference. Participants were most up-set when close friends and family were not shown—they hadoften inferred social meaning from the filtering of the feed.By the end of the study, however, participants were mostlysatisfied with the content on their feeds. Following up withparticipants two to six months after the study, we found thatfor most, satisfaction levels remained similar before and af-ter becoming aware of the algorithm, however, algorithmicawareness led users to more actively engage with Facebookand bolstered their overall feelings of control on the site.
Issue Date:2014
Genre:Conference Paper / Presentation
Date Available in IDEALS:2014-10-11

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