THE RESEARCH PROCESS

The Algocount project consists of seven actions; of these, two concern the collection of primary empirical data, and one concerns the implementation of a Communication Plan aimed at the dissemination of research findings and the engagement of the general public.

Digital Methods

A particular element of interest is given by the fact that algorithms hold an increasingly important role in the formation of public opinion, that is now largely mediated by social media platforms and digital resources.

These platforms are chosen in accordance with their widespread use and their relevance as news providers in the Italian context. This will allow to obtain a comprehensive data set that will generate insights about:

  • the main actors involved in the discussion of news occurring on digital platforms in Italy;
  • the mediation role played by social media platforms in the access to news from the general public;
  • the topics that are more likely to be affected to algorithmic processes in the formation of an algorithmic public sphere;
  • news consumption practices in the digital domain by Italian users.
Data collected from this part of the research will be processed to develop a set of visualisations capable of providing both general and detailed pictures of the digital Italian public sphere, the actors involved, the role of social media in algorithmic processes and the attitudes about news consumption by Italian users.

Qualitative Interviews

A particular element of interest is given by the fact that algorithms hold an increasingly important role in the formation of public opinion, that is now largely mediated by social media platforms and digital resources.

Communication

The dissemination phase will entail:

  • a set of non-academic outputs (e.g. newspaper or magazine articles, podcasts, blogposts/opinion pieces, short videos) targeting the general public, written/produced by the members of the ALGOCOUNT research team

  • the realization of a project website to host data visualizations

  • a set of workshop activities on “algorithmic literacy” addressed to high school students aged 14-18, to be carried out in schools in the area of Milan

  • a conference/final event hosted at the Science Museum of Milan that will mark the end of the project and involve stakeholders and the general public in the discussion of the main results of the research.

At the end of the research we expect we will have attained the following results: - to have enhanced the knowledge of and about algorithms in society for the general public, policy makers, relevant stakeholders and the academic community; - to have shed new light on the key issues that concern the diffusion of algorithms in society and the normative challenges that underpin public decision making processes at a local, national and international level for what concerns algorithms and their emergent role in society; - to have contributed to expanding the current understanding of the role of algorithms in the formation of public opinion and culture in the Italian context; - to have contributed to an enhancement of the relationship between science, technology and society by means of fostering greater knowledge and public trust about algorithms and, in parallel, having stimulated the emergence of a revived call for, and new processes of, algorithmic accountability.