Chistopher Steiner’s new book on algorithms looks interesting. (One nugget: Many companies now use software to analyze the emotional tone of customers calling in for customer service help. Sound emotional, and you’ll get routed to the more empathic call center workers.) It’s part of a growing literature on algorithms both online and off. As we search for reliable information on algorithms, they in turn may well be driving even our awareness and discussion of them. It’s another way technology shapes values, rather than being influenced or constrained by them. Consider a recent feature on an increasingly algorithm driven news industry:
Google News-powered results, Google says, are viewed by about 1 billion unique users a week. . . . Which translates, for news outlets overall, to more than 4 billion clicks each month: 1 billion from Google News itself and an additional 3 billion from web search. . . .
Google News’s head of engineering summed up the challenge: “How do I take a story that has 20,000 articles, potentially, and showcase all of its variety and breadth to the user?” . . . . Google [is] symbolic of a broader transition: producers’ own grudging acceptance of a media environment in which they are no longer the primary distributors of their own work. [It] suggests an ecosystem that will find producers and amplifiers working collaboratively, rather than competitively. And working, intentionally or not, toward the earnest end that Schmidt expressed two years ago: “the survival of high-quality journalism.”