"I always assumed that I wasn't really that close to [her]": Reasoning about invisible algorithms in news feeds

Motahhare Eslami, Aimee Rickman, Kristen Vaccaro, Amirhossein Aleyasen, Andy Vuong, Karrie Karahalios, Kevin Hamilton, Christian Sandvig

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

Abstract

Our daily digital life is full of algorithmically selected content such as social media feeds, recommendations and personalized search results. These algorithms have great power to shape users' experiences, yet users are often unaware of their presence. Whether it is useful to give users insight into these algorithms' existence or functionality and how such insight might affect their experience are open questions. To address them, we conducted a user study with 40 Facebook users to examine their perceptions of the Facebook News Feed curation algorithm. Surprisingly, more than half of the participants (62.5%) were not aware of the News Feed curation algorithm's existence at all. Initial reactions for these previously unaware participants were surprise and anger. We developed a system, FeedVis, to reveal the difference between the algorithmically curated and an unadulterated News Feed to users, and used it to study how users perceive this difference. Participants were most upset when close friends and family were not shown in their feeds. We also found participants often attributed missing stories to their friends' decisions to exclude them rather than to Facebook News Feed algorithm. By the end of the study, however, participants were mostly satisfied with the content on their feeds. Following up with participants two to six months after the study, we found that for most, satisfaction levels remained similar before and after becoming aware of the algorithm's presence, however, algorithmic awareness led to more active engagement with Facebook and bolstered overall feelings of control on the site.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationCHI 2015 - Proceedings of the 33rd Annual CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems
Subtitle of host publicationCrossings
PublisherAssociation for Computing Machinery
Pages153-162
Number of pages10
ISBN (Electronic)9781450331456
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 18 2015
Event33rd Annual CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, CHI 2015 - Seoul, Korea, Republic of
Duration: Apr 18 2015Apr 23 2015

Publication series

NameConference on Human Factors in Computing Systems - Proceedings
Volume2015-April

Other

Other33rd Annual CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, CHI 2015
CountryKorea, Republic of
CitySeoul
Period4/18/154/23/15

Keywords

  • Algorithm awareness
  • Algorithms
  • Hidden processes
  • News feeds

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software
  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • Computer Graphics and Computer-Aided Design

Press / Media

If you use Facebook to get your news, please — for the love of democracy — read this first

Motahhare Eslami, Aimee Rickman, Kristen Vaccaro, Amirhossein Aleyasen, Andy Vuong, Kyratso George Karahalios, Kevin Hamilton & Christian Sandvig

6/3/15

1 Media contribution

Press/Media: Research

How do you govern a (hidden, fluid and amoral) algorithm?

Motahhare Eslami, Aimee Rickman, Kristen Vaccaro, Amirhossein Aleyasen, Andy Vuong, Kyratso George Karahalios, Kevin Hamilton & Christian Sandvig

3/19/15

1 item of Media coverage

Press/Media: Research

SXSW 2015: How Algorithms Subtly Control What We Read, Hear, Watch And (Ultimately) Think

Motahhare Eslami, Aimee Rickman, Kristen Vaccaro, Amirhossein Aleyasen, Andy Vuong, Kyratso George Karahalios, Kevin Hamilton & Christian Sandvig

3/16/15

1 item of Media coverage

Press/Media: Research

Cite this

Eslami, M., Rickman, A., Vaccaro, K., Aleyasen, A., Vuong, A., Karahalios, K., Hamilton, K., & Sandvig, C. (2015). "I always assumed that I wasn't really that close to [her]": Reasoning about invisible algorithms in news feeds. In CHI 2015 - Proceedings of the 33rd Annual CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems: Crossings (pp. 153-162). (Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems - Proceedings; Vol. 2015-April). Association for Computing Machinery. https://doi.org/10.1145/2702123.2702556