The Algorithmic Media Observatory attends to the changing media that influence participation in politics and culture. The AMO’s name acknowledges that these media—which include social media platforms, mobile phones and home routers—are powered by dynamic and often invisible code that require new approaches to the task of observation. The AMO studies the patterns and habits of these algorithmic media to detect their subtle influence. Personalization and stratification, commands and nudges, prioritization and ranking—these are among the many ways that algorithms intervene in political affairs and cultural life. While these media are global, the observatory privileges its Canadian perspective and context, focusing on local challenges and domestic policy solutions.
The observatory has three overarching goals:
- identify trends in the design and operation of algorithmic media that influence Canadians’ ability to participate in politics and culture
- relate algorithmic media issues to Canadian policy institutions and pursue other means of democratic response
- deploy and share new methods to study the influence and interactions of algorithms
At present, the observatory is pursuing these goals through:
- a SSHRC-funded study of the use of Internet measurement in broadband policy
- a FRQSC-funded project tracing the history of computers in political campaigns and parties
- a CSDC-funded study into the development of blockchain technologies used by political parties
- early-stage research into the effect of algorithmic content recommendations on Canadian culture
SAGE photo (PCN-4720) courtesy of the Department of National Defence via the Canadian Forces Museum of Aerospace Defence.