intensive freshman seminar students grouped together and posing

Algorithms in culture

A three-credit course developed with first year college students in mind and most recently taught through the Intensive Freshman Seminar program at Indiana University Bloomington. Read the most recent course description.

Course description

This course introduces students to a multidisciplinary approach for understanding algorithms and how they impact day-to-day life. Specific algorithms analyzed include the Google PageRank algorithm, the Google autocomplete algorithm, and Facebook’s advertising algorithms. We’ll read scholarly and news publications that analyze algorithms through cultural/media studies, Black feminism, information and library science, and psychology. Given my background as a librarian, the content will be considered through various types of literacies including metaliteracy, digital literacy, and algorithmic awareness. 

No computer science background is necessary to take this course; in fact, we’ll start off with learning the fundamentals of what artificial intelligence is, a history of the Internet, and the difference between hardware and software. Understanding the basic functions of computer science, and possessing the ability to explain foundational concepts of technology to a variety of audiences, is a key goal of this course. We’ll use this new knowledge to identify technochauvinism (the belief that technology is always the solution) in current events.

Key texts

Artificial Unintelligence by Meredith Broussard

Algorithms of Oppression by Safiya Noble

Design Justice by Sasha Constanza-Chock

past syllabi

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