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Professor Rodney Jones – University of Reading

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  • Web of Intrigue

    How digital media are changing the way we communicate online

Professor Rodney Jones

Digital Literacies

Professor Rodney Jones focuses on how digital media are changing the way we communicate online by using language and other forms such as GIFs, memes and images.

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When we go online, we are no longer just communicating with each other.

We are also communicating with algorithms - computer code which is gathering our information, processing it, feeding back advertisements, determining who is at the top of our Facebook feeds, and what movies or songs are recommended to us.

These algorithms also determine the results we get on Google.

Understanding algorithms

Rodney's research investigates how people view algorithms. He aims to develop critical literacies by helping  people to understand how algorithms work - why they are getting 'fake news' on Facebook, or why they are faced with particular advertisements. For a project called 'Folk Algorithmics', Rodney has been asking students to think about how their results on Tinder are chosen for them. He has extended out his research into his teaching by getting students to interview their friends about different social media programmes. Rodney's teaching connects to a book he is currently writing about digital surveillance.

"The real trick in teaching digital literacies is helping my students to understand how to communicate with algorithms and how to use algorithms to talk to other people, when algorithms are actually the 'people' you are talking to."

What is the difference between the way algorithms and people process information? What impact does this have on our understanding of privacy? Algorithms see information in a very different way, and if we are going to protect our privacy we need to understand that by 'liking' something, we are giving away personal information.

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