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Examining the Impact of Algorithm Awareness on Wikidata's Recommender System Recoin

09/18/2020
by   Jesse Josua Benjamin, et al.
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The global infrastructure of the Web, designed as an open and transparent system, has a significant impact on our society. However, algorithmic systems of corporate entities that neglect those principles increasingly populated the Web. Typical representatives of these algorithmic systems are recommender systems that influence our society both on a scale of global politics and during mundane shopping decisions. Recently, such recommender systems have come under critique for how they may strengthen existing or even generate new kinds of biases. To this end, designers and engineers are increasingly urged to make the functioning and purpose of recommender systems more transparent. Our research relates to the discourse of algorithm awareness, that reconsiders the role of algorithm visibility in interface design. We conducted online experiments with 105 participants using MTurk for the recommender system Recoin, a gadget for Wikidata. In these experiments, we presented users with one of a set of three different designs of Recoin's user interface, each of them exhibiting a varying degree of explainability and interactivity. Our findings include a positive correlation between comprehension of and trust in an algorithmic system in our interactive redesign. However, our results are not conclusive yet, and suggest that the measures of comprehension, fairness, accuracy and trust are not yet exhaustive for the empirical study of algorithm awareness. Our qualitative insights provide a first indication for further measures. Our study participants, for example, were less concerned with the details of understanding an algorithmic calculation than with who or what is judging the result of the algorithm.

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