‘Do you take care on the internet? Does it take care of you?’
Hundreds of people attended this free event that offered a very diverse and fun programme with lots of hands-on activities and demonstrations on different topics: life sciences, astronomy, chemistry, physics, psychology, natural history, engineering, etc.
With a user-centred angle in mind, we aimed to increase awareness of how algorithms work, in particular when searching for content online. Examples of algorithm bias were presented, which stimulated reflection and debate, and gave participants the opportunity to express their own experiences of being online.
Our activities included a word puzzle to create sentences, cards and Lego blocks representing personal data, a ‘black box’, which acted as a visual representation of an algorithm to aid discussion on algorithmic transparency, and two scenarios that included examples of: 1) racial discrimination in algorithmic-mediated decisions and 2) inappropriate content recommendations, that encouraged people to give their opinions by vote as to how these issues should be tackled.
We were greatly impressed with the creativity of the public, and with the deeply thought out sentences that were created by children (some of whom were only 6 years old!)
Young children enjoyed building their personal ‘database’ with Lego blocks while the very little ones just loved the free play time!
The two examples of discriminatory and/or inappropriate content retrieved by Google and YouTube Kids sparked lots of interesting discussions. As the day passed, we were excited to see the posters being populated with colourful voting choices!
We were amazed with the level of interest showed by those attending the event, who in some cases came up with their own recommendations as to how the issue should be approached when participating in the voting above.
It was great to see families creating sentences, engaging in discussions and having fun together. As a parent and researcher, I also enjoyed introducing young children through play to the concept and relevance of ‘personal information’, helping to prepare them for their future access to the online world.