You and the algorithm

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  • Alert to how perceptions are influenced by social media
  • Actively transform their devices and change the rules to avoid this


1. Participants are surveyed in order to identify the most popular social media platforms among them. Then, they are split into groups by their favourite one (for example, “Facebook group”, “Instagram group”, “Twitter group”), tasked to write down on a poster what kind of information they share and receive on social media like

  • “daily news”,
  • “personal stories”,
  • “social events”,
  • “jokes or fun stories”,
  • “cute pictures”,
  • “challenges”,
  • ...

2. They should rate the quality of the time spent there and decide whether the information gathering is efficient.

  • Are you happy with the content you found opening the application or not?
  • Are they representative of your interests (or of yourself)? Why?
  • What content do you expect or do you want to see most on your timeline? If you were able to choose, what would your timeline be like?

3. Finally, participants are asked to list the adjectives they would use to describe how they feel when they use their favourite app, in example

  • “happy”,
  • “lonely”,
  • “bored”,
  • “gossipy“,
  • ...

4. Each group presents their poster and replies to possible questions by other groups. Leading questions should be: are your timelines much different from each other?; if you were able to choose, what would you like most to find on your timelines?

5. Tristan Harris’ TED talk, How a handful of tech companies control billions of minds every day, should be screened. Ask participants to

  • Discuss how the video made them feel and how they relate it to the previous exercise.
  • Participants can now be tasked to write down on a common poster what “an empowering timeline” would look like.


  • In your experience, are you aware of the time spent on social media?
  • Are you a passive user or do you consciously decide what you want on these social media applications?
  • How do you relate with other people on social media? Do you think it affects the shape of your timeline?
  • Do you think you can transform your experience on the Internet? How?



If any of the participants have stopped or never used social media, they may be grouped together to explain that choice. Do they ever feel like they are “missing out” on something?


Participants are surveyed in order to identify the most popular social media platforms among them. Once completed, they are asked to individually check the first 10 posts and/or stories on their timeline, noting down the type of content (“news”, “personal stories”, “memes”, “cute pictures”, “events”, etc.) and how many ads they see. Afterwards, they convene (leaving their smartphones behind) to discuss and document the results, focusing on differences and similarities. The following steps run as in the previous version.

Time 60-90 minutes

Material Standard, possibly not smartphones (or only during alternative step 1), projector

Group Size 2-20 people

Keywords distraction, addiction, social media




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