But what is most important here is not the consequences of algorithms, it is our emerging and powerful faith in them.-Tarleton Gillespie
Can an Algorithm be Wrong? posted on Culture Digitally, developed out of claims of #occupywallstreet hashtag censorship levied against Twitter. The author, Tarleton Gillespie, claims that, "the interesting question is not whether Twitter is censoring its Trends list. The interesting question is, what do we think the Trends list is...?"
I agree. Gillespie's full reasoning can be found in his article. In part, he highlights a divide between the perception of what the Trends list is showing and the real algorithm behind that list. I feel that an persistent recognition of that divide is an essential part of a modern human's mental tool-kit.
Algorithms distill usefulness out of the overwhelming sea of data that is our present world. With that power, algorithms shape our perception of the world. The let us know what to buy, what to read, what news is important, what stocks are worth manipulating. Daily, more and more trust is being handed over to algorithms. They're essential. But as filters, they leave a lot behind. And we can never see what we are never shown. We have to come to terms with that fact. We have to take the time to look behind the curtain from time to time; rehash, reassess, demand tinkering when the facts call for it. Algorithms are tools. They should work for us.