An algorithm is simply a pattern or protocol, referring to how things get done. If a Web page references your personal information and past viewing habits, the algorithm or protocol will be to serve up more of the same to capture your attention. As the system selects some information for you, it ignores other information that you never get to see or consider.
From the old days of journalism, a saying applies: “If it bleeds, it leads,” meaning that violent and tragic stories frequently lead the headlines, even if they are rare. The system selects these stories to get the most attention from the viewing audience. Repeated emphasis on violent stories day after day can make you perceive the world as more violent and dangerous than it really is and alter your perceptions. If one group is consistently portrayed as delinquent, violent, and/or dangerous, the viewing public can come to view them in that way, even if it is not an accurate depiction of what that same audience observes in their own community day in and day out.
Since this selection process often occurs without you even knowing about it, it can limit your range of awareness—as well as your world view. Mass media is a powerful force in our lives, and the depictions and portrayals can contain subtle or overt prejudice and bias.
In this Assignment, you consider this process, its impact, and how you can take steps to counter act its influence.