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Computing and the social

We are interested in the inter-relationships between computing and the social world. How is computing conducted for social purposes? How do people’s computing practices shape the world around them and how does the world we live in shape computing? We can investigate these issues in a number of ways – for example by observing user interactions and collaborative behaviours or exploring people’s understandings of the roles that computers play in their lives.

The recently started UnBias project examines the ways that algorithms shape user behaviours online and the implications this has for their understandings of what is ‘fair’. We live in an age of ubiquitous online data collection, analysis and processing. News feeds, search engine results and product recommendations increasingly use personalisation algorithms to determine the information we see when browsing online. Whilst this can help us to cut through the mountains of available information and find those bits that are most relevant to us, how can we be sure that they are operating in our best interests? Are algorithms ever ‘neutral’ and how can we judge the trustworthiness and fairness of systems that heavily rely on algorithms? UnBias investigates the user experience of algorithm driven internet services and the processes of algorithm design. The project is funded by the EPSRC as part of its TIPS theme - Trust, Identity, Privacy and Security in the Digital Economy.