Words and Computers- 1st Plate

Learning Goals

  1. Identify how algorithms shape our access and use of digital knowledge and our choices.
  2. Analyze how algorithms could be shaped by our choices.


An Alrogithim is "a precise rule (or set of rules) specifying how to solve some problem." Algorithms shape how we search and use information, how we move about our world, and our expectations for the future. That said, as Safiya Noble notes, algorithms reflect the values of their creators.

So, in studying the past, we need to think carefully about how algorithms shape our access and use of knowledge and the choices we make.


For a 24 hours period, record some of the times you used an algorithm.

NOTE: Please only share what you are comfortable and allowed to share. Family, work, or medical information are all types of information you should consider keeping private.

Write 7 to 10 examples of your use of algorithims, the outcomes of your interaction with the algorithm, and one question you have for the creator of the algorithm.

Examples (you should write 7-10 of these)

  1. I used duckduckgo.com to search for "ai" and "water usage." The results page showed primarily news stories, but not scholarly articles, even when those articles were on the open web. My question for the creators of the algorithm would be why popular press is pushed to the top of the search results when all the press cited scholarly articles.
  2. I asked ChatGPT to write a five paragraph essay about two empires and their water management strategies. The resulting essay was a work of fiction, and contained entirely fictional citations. I would ask ChatGPT creators why not just create "I don’t know" outputs.
  3. I watched a video about an Ojibwe woman long-distance biker. Youtube’s algorithm suggested I watched video about the music group U2, which I have note listened to in 20 years. I would ask the youtube creators why it suggested this video.