EVERY CLICK YOU MAKE: ALGORITHMIC LITERACY AND THE DIGITAL LIVES OF YOUNG ADULTS
Keywords:algorithms, digital literacy, young adults, media education, participatory methods
Critical digital literacy comprises subsets of medium- and content-related skills necessary for digital privacy and digital citizenship. Frameworks for defining and evaluating digital literacy proliferate in academia and policymaking; however, in a networked climate subsumed by dataveillance, algorithmic bias, political bots, and deep fakes, these frameworks need to be updated. Algorithms may be the greatest determinant in sociopolitical online interactions and information gathering, and without a multivalent literacy of algorithms, nuanced understandings of digital privacy and digital citizenship may be unachievable. We therefore propose ‘algorithmic literacy’ become an essential element for digital literacy in young adult media education. Researchers have highlighted how intersectional aspects of gender, ability, and socioeconomic status are stronger predictors of low digital literacy than age. Following a tradition of participatory (rather than protectionist) research about youth privacy online, our research foregrounds young adults’ practices and perspectives on algorithmic culture in order to co-develop a framework for algorithmic literacy. Our paper shares findings from a participatory project co-designing an algorithmic literacy toolkit with young adults as co-researchers and participants. We created a curriculum focusing on reviewing the current critical scholarly literature, policy, and popular discourse on algorithms. After two weeks of intensive research, our student co-researchers met amongst themselves to devise a sustainable, ‘living-document’ type of toolkit, comprising a website, an Instagram page, and a Medium blog. Reflected in the toolkit's name, The Algorithmic You uses an intersectional lens to facilitate peer-oriented ‘self-discovery’ of how algorithms shape and produce interactions in the everyday lives of young adults.