Unpacking the Algorithms That Shape Our UX: Algorithmic Awareness as a Form of Information Literacy

Tuesday, 7/17/2018
  • 2:00 PM-3:00 PM (Eastern)
  • 1:00 PM-2:00 PM (Central)
  • 12:00 PM-1:00 PM (Mountain)
  • 11:00 AM-12:00 PM (Pacific)

Our technological experiences are increasingly mediated by algorithms - the code and computational processes embedded into our software. Recent work by scholars, such as Dr. Safiya Umoja Noble, has shown how algorithms exhibit implicit biases and reify societal prejudices. Moreover, the technical nature of algorithms and the lack of transparency surrounding them can be a challenge for novices. We, and our patrons, routinely engage in systems that predict, recommend, and speculate about our interests based on the digital fingerprint we provide with our link clicks and “likes”, but we all struggle understanding how and why those systems work as they do. In seeking to understand common systems, like the Facebook news feed or the Google search engine results page, we want to help students discover the scope and reach of algorithms. We are looking for ways to address a gap in our field: a lack of an understanding around the rules that govern our software and shape our digital experiences.

In this interactive webcast, the presenters will introduce some of the possibilities around a new competency that they have termed “Algorithmic Awareness." They will use modules via short polls and breakout rooms that ask how the group experiences algorithms in their digital lives. They will also share as OER research charettes how  preliminary research into algorithms can can be used to teach these technical concepts. At its core, this session is about introducing a new expertise for library professionals and providing a new teaching moment for our librarians.

Learning Outcomes

  • Identify and define algorithms in action within common online interactions such as the sorting of a news feed, an eCommerce experience, and a search experience.
  • Learn how Algoritihmic Awareness as a concept fits into the ACRL Framewework
  • Apply session modules (released as OER) as actionable steps for teaching about algorithms in their own information literacy instruction

Who Should Attend

Professionals such as librarians or professors who can subsequently act as a resource to teach students about the implications of algorithms in hopes of a more transparent relationship with our technological experiences.


Jason A. Clark
Associate Professor
Head, Special Collections & Archival Informatics
Montana State University Library

Julian Kaptanian
Research Assistant
Montana State University Library



ACRL member: $50
ALA member: $75
Nonmember: $90
Student: $40
Group*: $295

* Webcasts take place in an interactive, online classroom environment with one user/one login. If you select the group rate, one person must register, login, and keyboard during the event. A group registration allows an institution to project the Webcast to participants in the same location.

How to Register

  • Locate the webcast by the date of the event under the monthly headings.
  • Select the "Register" link next to the webcast title.
  • You will need to log in with your ALA ID & password. If you do not have an ALA ID & password, you will be asked to create one in order to register.

Webcasts will be recorded and made available to registrants as an archive, so if you sign up but cannot attend the live event, you will receive the archived webcast recording.

Tech Requirements

ACRL Webcasts are held in an Adobe Connect virtual classroom. Speakers or a headset for listening to the presentation are required. You may ask questions through text-based chat.  Adobe works on both PC and Apple platforms.


If you have a question about an e-Learning opportunity or need to make arrangements for special assistance, please contact Margot Conahan (mconahan@ala.org).