Week 8 Summary

Attempting to play with algorithms

Last week was spent attempting to affect a change in my Soundcloud weekly playlist by liking and playing every track I could find with the title ‘algorithm’.

That’s why there are so many Soundcloud posts currently in the lifestream. I switched off the IFTTT link after a while to avoid flooding the stream as I ended up with more than 100 tracks.

However, perhaps fortunately, it didn’t have great deal of effect. In fact the one effect it did have was that I received a message from Soundcloud telling me to slow down the liking of so many tracks. Weird.

I guess that shows how the algorithm has been played  by users previously.

Besides playing with the algorithm itself, I found it interesting to see just how diverse the material of the songs was. So many different takes on the idea of an algorithm. Of course, there was a preponderance of futurist EDM, but also country, folk, and spoken word. Love songs, songs embracing algorithmic culture, songs protesting it, thrash metal songs predicting a gory future of perpetual war with robots more in line with the fear of cyber culture.

Algorithm Analysis for Big Data in Education Based on Depth Learning

This article highlighted for me how the belief in the organisation and analysis of big data from educational institutions has become systemically accepted. Or at least a primary goal of IT.

Democracy and the Algorithmic Turn

Makes a case for the extent to which algorithm design has become a global force. And shines a light on how these can shape flashpoint events like elections but also become inscribed in the digital mediation of democracy. It reflects what Williamson (2018) proposes regarding the capacity for ‘big data’ to shape policy and for policy to determine what data is collected.

Introna’s  major work on Turnitin

This groundbreaking piece is a sharp analysis of not only Turnitin’s algorithmic design but the impact it has upon the written word itself and the way students write.

Excavating AI

“in which the Internet’s distorted picture of us becomes who we really are.” – but who are we anyway? Do we expect there to be a true self which is freed from the algorithms perception of us. How is that any more authentic and real than the ‘distorted’ picture?

Anatomy of an AI System

A revealing of the materiality of Alogirthms. From the extraction of rare earth materials to the indentured / prison labourers who built Amazon echo devices.

The Prevalence of Algortihms in Education

Pretty banal article detailing all the ways that algorithms are already in schools shaping how teachers, students and institutions behave. But don’t worry, it says, the heart of school is still its human faculty.

So the algorithmic turn is in fact another part of the humanist project.

Simon Denny’s Mine

The exhibition from MONA also brings the brutal reality of data mining and the growth of AI powered products into focus.


A company selling glasses that befuddle facial recognition technology. We’re opting to subvert the surveillance rather than legislate against it.

Turnitin’s podcast on the written word

Interesting to see the company producing this. Getting on the podcast wagon and occassionaly interviewing some interesting people, though never challenging the assumption that the algorithm is right.

Limitations of algorithmic recommender systems in Soundcloud

  • Based upon tags
  • Based upon musical style
  • Based upon track image
  • Not thematic content or name

This results in more o the same style of music being pushed -to the extent that one would assume the platform only houses one type of music.

Simplistic recommenders that worked just by title might render more obscure and bizarre recommendations – less suited to what the algorithm producers assume to be the way people listen to music.

This produces a way of listening to and thinking about music which reflects commercial interests rather than artistic ones.

Internalises a belief that one’s musical tastes are of a particular flavour fixed and dictated by the algorithms in our digital platforms. Does the algorithm shape our tastes or is it merely an accurate reflection of how our musical tastes take shape. The challenge is not necessarily what the algorithm includes in its recommendations  but rather how it excludes those who don’t adapt to its patterns – If you don’t tag your uploads, the algorithm is unable to process and recommend them as effectively, thus making your work invisible to all except those who seek it out directly.

The artificially social nature of these platforms (many accounts are bots) also heightens the presentation of self in everyday life – One presents the music one likes in order to collect more followers. Resulting in a system where users like and share music that will attract the most followers rather than what they may actually enjoy listening to.

The platforms and entrepreneurs pushing ‘personalisation’ of learning are based upon similar fundamental principles of commerce and advertising. They miss the key problem that education is not advertising, no matter how much they may want it to be. Students are not just another demographic to be catered to. The educational experience cannot be turned into a recommender system.



Algorithmic play

How my Google ads are personalised

Google Ads - see outline for details

Given that I try to avoid Google searches as much as possible by using Duckduckgo , this is still fairly accurate. I imagine my years of Google use prior to switching the DDG have contirbuted dramatically.

SO yes, I am 34-44, male. Not quite sure what elegant themes are according to google but maybe its simply www.elegantthemes.com/.

The Guardian, yes, I’ve sought out news from The Guardian for years.

Squarespace is a mystery to me.

Menulog makes sense as I have ordered food online before.

American football? Perhaps I’ve followed Colin Kaepernick’s career and others ‘taking a knee’ at some point during the US anthem.

Adventure games: WoW during IDGBL perhaps.

etc. etc.



Week 6 summary

This week involved more exploration of what ‘community’ means and particularly how virrtual/online communities have been conceptualised across the internet.

Starting with the latest elements on the lifestream:

“Community” videos on Vimeo: fascinating to see how a search for community of Vimeo returned all these animated versions of perfect communities which all seem to be following a similar stylization. Each one relates to the marketing and advertising of ‘community’ as a positive principle.

Virtual  cities -another Vimeo. Just as in a virtual community there is a material physical element that binds the community together, or there is something outside the virtual which works as a gathering point for the virtual community.

Why is community, and particularly the idea of an interactive community, the ideal of online education? What forms or models of community are best suited to an educational experience?

Community is a powerful marketing element of digital technologies, including MOOCs. It also takes a central role in the political and economic forces promoting technological solutionism along with the powerful narrative devoted to networked and social learning theories.

Recalling Kozinets (2009) I wanted to explore how “For those who sought out similar others under conditions of great anxiety and uncertainty, the anonymity and accessibility of these communities has been a virtual godsend.” One troubling online community who perceive themselves as stigmatised and do also often suffer mental illness is the Incel community. A community which professes an ideology of hatred or othering can still bring joy, mental well-being and sense of belonging to its members.

It also has the same qualities of belonging and support for its members that Kozinets highlights:

A range of studies also suggest that online communities have considerable stress reduction, self-acceptance, and informational value, even for people who have illnesses and conditions that are not stigmatized, such as diabetes or hearing impairments. (Kozinets, 2009, p28)

I’ve looked at several studies and literature reviews into The Community of Inquiry model since is often proposed as an ideal model for an educational community.

Neil Selwyn’s Meet the Education Researcher podcast with Sian Bayne covers the Manifesto for Teaching Online and how concepts like Post-digital and Posthumanism have made their way into education research and thinking.

I tweeted an article about the originator of the renegade dance in consideration of how it highlights the distinct qualities of different ‘platform communities”. That is, community cultures that form around a social media platform and develop their own rules and expectations.

Microlearning and Learning Experience Platforms – assumptions about community, generations and how learning has ‘changed’.

I’ve left all the Pingbacks from comments on the lifestream as a kind of automated community interaction.

Finally the last Podcast on Netnography drew out some ideas on how lurkers lurk and why they should find a place in the ethnography.


Week 5 summary

So last week I was really just looking directly at my chosen MOOC to start thinking  about what constitutes a community there.

The area I want to problematise is what defines a community and whether we’re just calling what goes on in mooc a community because that’s the way we’re expected to talk about them. That is, since ‘community’ has been espoused as an ideal not just of learning but of the internet itself, we want to see community or moreso feel a ‘sense of community’ when in fact that ‘sense’ is an internal construct.

Are there measurable markers of ‘community’ or are we really talking about a ‘sense of community’? Is there a difference there? How much of this ideation of community is derived from our innate understanding and how much is actually given to us by the companies selling digital community through digital social platforms?

The next area I’m concerned with is how to represent my ethnography. Especially as, while I’ve found very useful things in my MOOC, I’m not sure I’ve found community there.  And what right do I have to attempt determine what community is or is not?

Definitions Community & Sense of Community


“A generally agreed upon definition of a virtual community would be a good starting point. What we need is a working definition of the virtual community, a consensus found in the major stream of literature, a definition that understood by most of people. To achieve this goal, definitions of the virtual community proposed by various authors are compared in Table 1. Similar items found in definitions are then extracted in order to build up a working definition.”


“A common definition of community emerged as a group of people with diverse characteristics who are linked by social ties, share common perspectives, and engage in joint action in geographical locations or settings. The participants differed in the emphasis they placed on particular elements of the definition. Community was defined similarly but experienced differently by people with diverse backgrounds. These results parallel similar social science findings and confirm the viability of a common definition for participatory public health.”

Community vs Sense of community?


“Our proposed definition has four elements. The first element is membership. Membership is the feeling of belonging or of sharing a sense of personal relatedness. The second element is influence, a sense of mattering, of making a difference to a group and of the group mattering to its members. The third element is reinforcement: integra- tion and fulfillment of needs. This is the feeling that members’ needs will be met by the resources received through their membership in the group. The last element is shared emotional connection, the commitment and belief that members have shared and will share history, common places, time together, and similar experiences. This is the feel- ing one sees in farmers’ faces as they talk about their home place, their land, and their families; it is the sense of family that Jews feel when they read The Source by James Michener (1965). In a sentence, the definition we propose is as follows: Sense of com- munity is a feeling that members have of belonging, a feeling that members matter to one another and to the group, and a shared faith that members’ needs will be met through their commitment to be together (McMillan, 1976).”

Digital Human Screenome Memoir

Around a fortnight’s worth of screenshots sequenced in order but manually taken rather than automatically as is being done in Stanford’s Human Screenome Project.

I used my fingers to snap these so an extra layer of digitality.

A complete accident that the first and last screenshots are from the mobile game version of Don’t Starve.

This is entitled a memoir because the screenshots were manual rather than automated and thus relied on me remembering to capture them daily (I’m sure I missed some days).

Rosi Braidotti’s public talks on Soundcloud are featured in the audio.

Creators of the Human Screenome Project feel like they’re able to learn a lot about a person from their screenome. So, as limited as this is, what do you think can be learnt about me from this Screen Memoir?

To view individual screenshots in a gallery visit: https://photos.app.goo.gl/3UkHKfkeHPhME6in8