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Algorithm Bias & Gaming

workshop materials (fall 2020)


Welcome to this workshop and information on algorithm bias.  By the end of our time together, you will be able to

  • define algorithm bias.
  • recognize how algorithms may perpetuate bias or misrepresent certain people or groups.
  • understand how algorithms may be altered or gamed for certain purposes.
  • brainstorm strategies to minimize algorithm bias.

Overaching Question: Are search engines a fair and unbiased source of information?

search engine image

Image by mohamed_hassan at Pixabay

Algorithm: a set of rules to achieve a goal (Merriam-Webster)

Algorithms: "...a set of step-by-step instructions that computers follow to perform a task..." (The Brookings Institution)

Search Algorithm: "... a procedure that determines what kind of information is retrieved from a large mass of data." (Merriam-Webster)

Machine Learning: "...the study of computer algorithms that improve automatically through experience.[1][2] It is seen as a subset of artificial intelligence. Machine learning algorithms build a mathematical model based on sample data, known as "training data", in order to make predictions or decisions without being explicitly programmed to do so.[3] (Wikipedia)

text for algorithm and machine learning

image created with Canva

  • recommender services (e.g. Netflix, Facebook, Pinterest, Pandora)
  • retailers (Amazon)
  • search engines (Google, Bing, Library databases)
  • evaluation systems (credit evaluation, insurance risk)

Video: Your New Favorite Song Has Been Chosen By An Algorithm (2:22) NBC News


  1. How do Pandora and Spotify algorithms differ from each other?


Algorithmic Bias: "...  describes systematic and repeatable errors in a computer system that create unfair outcomes, such as privileging one arbitrary group of users over others.” (Wikipedia)

Video: The Coded Gaze: Bias in Artificial Intelligence (13:19) Joy Buolamwini, Algorithmic Justice League


  1. Where has Buolamwini experienced algorithmic bias?
  2. What is often one key problem with systems using algorithms?
  3. In what other spheres might artificial intelligence (AI) be used inaccurately?