Joho the Blog[liveblog][PAIR] Karrie Karahalios - Joho the Blog

[liveblog][PAIR] Karrie Karahalios

At the Google PAIR conference, Karrie Karahalios is going to talk about how people make sense of their world and lives online. (This is an information-rich talk, and Karrie talks quickly, so this post is extra special unreliable. Sorry. But she’s great. Google her work.)

NOTE: Live-blogging. Getting things wrong. Missing points. Omitting key information. Introducing artificial choppiness. Over-emphasizing small matters. Paraphrasing badly. Not running a spellpchecker. Mangling other people’s ideas and words. You are warned, people.

Today, she says, people want to understand how the information they see comes to them. Why does it vary? “Why do you get different answers depending on your wifi network? ”Why do you get different answers depending on your wifi network? These algorithms also affect our personal feeds, e.g., Instagram and Twitter; Twitter articulates it, but doesn’t tell you how it decides what you will see

In 2012, Christian Sandvig and [missed first name] Holbrook were wondering why they were getting odd personalized ads in their feeds. Most people were unaware that their feeds are curated: only 38% were aware of this in 2012. Thsoe who were aware became aware through “folk theories”: non-authoritative explanations that let them make sense of their feed. Four theories:

1. Personal engagement theory: If you like and click on someone, the more of that person you’ll see in your feed. Some people were liking their friends’ baby photos, but got tired of it.

2. Global population theory: If lots of people like, it will show up on more people’s feeds.

3. Narcissist: You’ll see more from people who are like you.

4. Format theory: Some types of things get shared more, e.g., photos or movies. But people didn’t get

Kempton studied thermostats in the 1980s. People either thought of it as a switch or feedback, or as a valve. He looked at their usage patterns. Regardless of which theory, they made it work for them.

She shows an Orbitz page that spits out flights. You see nothing under the hood. But someone found out that if you use a Mac, your prices were higher. People started using designs that shows the seams. So, Karrie’s group created a view that showed the feed and all the content from their network, which was three times bigger than what they saw. For many, this was like awakening from the Matrix. More important, they realized that their friends weren’t “liking” or commenting because the algorithm had kept their friends from seeing what they posted.

Another tool shows who you are seeing posts from and who you are not. This was upsetting for many people.

After going through this process people came up with new folk theories. E.g., they thought it must be FB’s wisdom in stripping out material that’s uninteresting one way or another. [paraphrasing].

They let them configure who they saw, which led many people to say that FB’s algorithm is actually pretty good; there was little to change.

Are these folk theories useful? Only two: personal engagement and control panel, because these let you do something. But there are poor tweaking tools.

How to embrace folk theories: 1. Algorithm probes, to poke and prod. “It would be great, Karrie says, to have open APIs so people could create tools”(It would be great to have open APIs so people could create tools. FB deprecated it.) 2. Seamful interfaces to geneate actionable folk theories. Tuning to revert of borrow?

Another control panel UI, built by Eric Gilbert, uses design to expose the algorithms.

She ends with a wuote form Richard Dyer: “All technolgoies are at once technical and also always social…”

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