Week 8 – Round Up

Algorithms are awesome. From procedural generated computer games, to making recommendations on what music I might like, I’m very much a fan of what they do having been exposed to them from a young age. I checked out Reddit which is an interesting algortihm to consider here because the algorithm works in tandem with human input to identify content which is “relevant”. In theory Reddit should provide the level of agency that Gillespie doesn’t think we can achieve. In reality, it usually just ends up with a very american view of the world.

I also wondered why, given the importance of search engines, Google can escape the same levels of ire that media moguls receive. Not that I suggest the Murdoch empire is unfairly criticised. On reflection, perhaps Google has watched and learned the issues faced by print and broadcast media.

I spend a fair bit of my time at work dealing with issues around Turnitin, so I was surprised to see it mentioned so prominently as an algorithm used extensively in Higher Education in one of the core readings. This now vies for my attention on my essay portion of this course’s assessment.

I’ve created my artefact for this week. I tried very hard to “break” the algorithm on Steam, but I think without actually buying and playing a game that I would never normally countenance, there is not much chance of that happening. I found the process of re-running the “queue” to be quite enjoyable. There’s a message of over-consumption in there too which I haven’t addressed in my video.

I also found time to begin the process of tidying up my blog, I’m sticking with this theme now, as it seems to do everything asked of it by IFTTT. I also looked at my earliest posts and started to add the meta information required.

From twitter – Turnitin as a plagiarism “detection” system?

Knox (2015) writes:

“It is notable that algorithms, assumed to provide objectivity and exactitude, are frequently used in areas of high risk and security, and this is precisely where the most prominent example can be found in education: the use of the Turnitin plagiarism detection service at the point of assessment. ”

This is at odds with my own experience of using Turnitin. It is not a “plagiarism detection service”. It is at best able to suggest where plagiarism may have occurred, through its similarity indexing algorithm, but the ultimate call as to whether or not plagiarism has occurred is (still) made by humans. The similarity score of Turnitin is used as part of the evidence gathered in suspected academic misconduct cases. I have never heard of a student being penalised automatically. Perhaps it happens elsewhere.

Moreover, there should be push to flip the  focus of Turnitin’s reporting to  enable students to improve their scholarship.

ref: Knox, J. 2015. Algorithmic Cultures. Excerpt from Critical Education and Digital Cultures. In Encyclopedia of Educational Philosophy and Theory. M. A. Peters (ed.). DOI 10.1007/978-981-287-532-7_124-1


From Twitter

A very interesting exchange with James via Twitter off the back of my comment regarding Turnitin as a “plagiarism detection tool”. I argue that it’s not such a thing, but there are those who take the opposing view point. I could see this discussion taking shape in to a larger piece of work.

Credible knowledge sources

Fox attempts to knock back the argument that the Murdochs, or more correctly the Murdoch Family Trust, will have under their control several of the leading news providers in the UK after the deal. It notes the separation between broadcast and print businesses, while pointing out that both companies have their own boards and independent shareholders.


The UK is currently looking at the division of labor in news production and circulation being even tighter. This apparently concerns a lot of people, including the UK Government.

Gillespie says that the production of information can only be handled by proxies in the division of labour. To do so otherwise would be too mammoth a task given the size of our country

“some produce and select information, and the rest of us, at least in that moment, can only take it for what it’s worth”.  (Gillespie, 2012 p 25)

And yet, when considering the fundamental importance of a single search engine’s algorithm in putting news and content in front of the information consumer, Google’s market share is not prominent in the headlines, despite it account for 88% of UK search engine activity in January 2017 according to Statista.com


This comes down to a number of reasons, but one which I’d be interested in exploring is that the technology is not understood by law makers. Unlike traditional media who have actively sought to lobby and influence and gain power in the UK political arena, tech companies give the appearance at least, of enjoying staying out of the limelight and just getting on with what they do. I suspect the latter part of that is naive, I’m sure they do plenty lobbying too, but I don’t see a google doodle appearing any time soon stating “It was google what won it” in reference to a general election result.


Pinned to Alogrithms on Pinterest

This was supposed to be an image that showed how people will claim to have a superior understanding of Google’s algorithm to such a degree that they can offer “1st page placement”. Something has happened to the image which I’ll need to rectify, but the context was Gillespie’s “Evaluation of Relevance” section of the secondary reading this week.

Just Pinned to Alogrithms: 43 Penguin Friendly SEO Tips for Page One Google Rankings: http://ift.tt/2mWDgEN

Pinned to Alogrithms on Pinterest

I included this image of a book cover because it exemplified the element of fear that people hold about algorithmic culture, the invasive, pervasive and prominent role algorithms have taken in our every day life. It also looks like a book I might yet read.

Just Pinned to Alogrithms: The dangers of big data: How society is being controlled by mathematical algorithms: http://ift.tt/2mf43aT

Pinned to Algorithms on Pinterest

“So in many ways, algorithms remain outside our grasp, and they are designed to be. ……”

Just Pinned to Algorithms: joke-algorithm-is: http://ift.tt/2mPiAOe
“……This is not to say that we should not aspire to illuminate their workings and impact.”
 (Gillespie, 2012 p26)

My first memory of algorithms

(image source: http://8bs.com/beebugmags.htm)


It was a programme that my dad and I typed, line-by-line in BBC Basic. The BBC micro combined with hours of painstaking debugging from the lines of code printed in the Bebug Magazine pictured above, resulted in a programme that would create trees on-screen based on your inputs. I guess in today’s money such programming would be referred to as “procedural generation”, but it’s still an algorithm. Procedural generated games are among the most fascinating experiences gaming has to offer today. At least, I think they are. The controlled randomness of it all is fascinating to watch unfurl as it moves through its magical creative powers.

Using algorithms to create learning pathways could be very similar to game design. I hope I can investigate this more fully in the Games Based Learning module coming up in the next academic year.

(image source: http://www.wired.co.uk/article/games-developed-by-algorithms)


Algorithms; community and eye tracking in VR

Given that we’ve moved on to algorithms and culture, I thought to check out some stuff from Reddit. Reddit is driven by an algorithm, though it also has elements of human interaction to drive content up or down a hierarchy. It’s from a day-gone-by pre web2.0, but the site holds in there with huge communities built up around the “sub-reddits” there. I found an interesting discussion opening up over on /r/vive, a section of Reddit which is dedicated to primarily HTC Vive, but also VR in general.

“With all the talk about eye tracking inside VR headsets, I wanted to ask and see how many people on here have had LASIK eye surgery. The reason I am asking is because I believe I have discovered a fatal flaw in eye tracking technology when it comes to people who have had LASIK eye surgery.”

Eye tracking flaw after LASIK surgery from Vive

The user suggests that after a form of eye surgery, eye tracking software ( which is increasingly likely to be bundled along with VR. I can hear Facebook salivating at the thought of tracking eyeballs and adverts…..).

I “upvoted” the discussion, as I feel it’s an interesting and well considered original post. However, the algorithm behind Reddit, combined with other user’s interactions with the story, will determine how long the post remains visible to other users, and its position on the page.