Center for Digital Learning at SUNY Geneseo

Breaking the black box video series

In 2016, ProPublica published a series of short informational videos that explain how online algorithms influence our daily lives in numerous, and often concealed, ways. Each video is less than 3 minutes long, and is accompanied by a ProPublica article on a related topic, as well as an open comments section for readers to reflect and interact with each other on the issues discussed.

View the videos and find the links to their articles below:

Episode 1: Profiling

What Facebook Knows About You

Episode 2: Prices

When Algorithms Decide What You Pay

Episode 3: Machine Learning

When Machines Learn by Experimenting on Us

Episode 4: Artificial Intelligence

How Machines Learn to Be Racist

The irony is not lost on us that the only place these videos seem to live on the internet is ProPublica’s Facebook account, even though Facebook plays a prominent role as the series’s Most Wanted for wild-west-style data collection tactics. Additionally, each article features its own relevant internet tool, one of which being a Chrome extension that shows you what data Facebook has on you; while attempting to “break” an algorithmic black box, the writers encourage readers to engage with another infamous data-monger.

For now, however, we’ll take all the education we can get on these increasingly influencial digital mechanisms, while continuing to apply a critical eye to how and why that information gets to us.