Readings 6: Algorithmic Culture

In “How Computers Know What We Want — Before We Do,” Lev Grossman discusses the different recommendation engines that are on the web and what different components make them up. It starts off talking about pandora and how there is a very intricate algorithm that goes into matching similar songs with each other. I set of 400 attributes can be attached to a certain song and having similar qualities creates similar song selections. Grossman also mentions Netflix’s recommendation engine and how it is mostly user base with its rating system. How would you rate the recommendation engines of online websites?

“Amazon’s recommendation secret” is very similar to the above article in which it shortly explains’s recommendation engine. They have recommendations such as “customers also bought” and “frequently bought together.” While these are automated, there are also manual emails that get sent out based on what categories a customer qualifies for. Amazon also has an add on feature which displays small impulse items at the checkout similar to candy in a supermarket. What do you think is the best feature of amazon’s recommendation engine?

“Roommates Who Click” talks about the process of first year roommate selection. Some schools do completely random, while others administer a personality test and match up similar students with each other. Schools that dont allow personality tests do allow students do request certain roommates and students use sites such as URoomSurf and Lifetopia to find roommates that are compatible to them. I have no experience with having a random roommate of having been matched up with someone else because i requested to live with 2 friends i went to high school with. Given to chance to do it again, i might take the chance and get random roommates just for the experience. What are your experiences with roommates?

Noodle is a Google-like search engine and it is education specific. Instead of having to browse through pages in order to find what you are specifically looking for, Noodle has advanced search options that appear after the initial search. This allows users to bypass all irrelevant data and find exactly what they’re looking for in regards to education. Does having category specific search engines make looking for something that much easier?

In “Hitting It Off, Thanks to Algorithms of Love,” John Tierney writes about different online dating services like and He notes how they use different algorithms and personality tests to attain the best possible matches. These websites match people together mostly based on certain interests and personality traits while this is not how relationships are created. Would you ever use an online dating service? why?


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