Algorithms and literacies
2018-01-29, 14:30 — 16:00
Guest seminar, Jutta Haider, Associate Professor Information Studies, Lund University
In this seminar I present the upcoming project "Algorithms and Literacies: young people's understanding and society's expectation". This project investigates how different ways of conceptualising internet algorithms, their effects and how to deal with them shape the understanding of and engagement with information in contemporary society. This is addressed by providing (a) a mapping of which actors in Swedish society (e.g. organisations, companies, public authorities, politicians, debaters, bloggers, YouTubers, editorial writers, etc.) talk about critical assessment of sources (källkritik) and related notions as well as an in-depth analysis of the expectations these actors express in these as means to address challenges related to the invisible algorithms that regulate how information spreads, is produced and appears on the Internet and (b) empirically grounded knowledge of late adolescents’ understandings of internet algorithms that govern how information circulates and is shaped on the Internet. Special attention is paid to the roles schools and libraries are assigned in the public discourse and to how late adolescents' out-of school and in-school experiences influence each other.
In the presentation the focus lies with tracing some of the research leading up to the project and discussing methodological challenges ahead. In addition, I want to use the opportunity to discuss with the seminar the underlying issue of how to think about the algorithmic shaping and control of information in contemporary society in its relation to the crisis of trust in knowledge and established institutions engulfing society and the increasing dominance of a populist politics of affect benefiting from the network effect of today's dominant and privately owned information infrastructures. What does all this mean for the promotion of practices as thoroughly rational and enlightened as critical assessment of information and certain aspects of information literacy after all are (especially it seems in the Swedish guise of källkritik)? Asked bluntly and somewhat polemically: (How) can a crisis of trust be tackled by calling for more criticism? Or are we feeding the trolls?