Algorithm Awareness as an Important Internet Skill: The Case of Voice Assistants

Jonathan Gruber, Eszter Hargittai, Gökçe Karaoglu, Lisa Brombach


Voice assistants have become increasingly popular as part of digital technologies that people use in their everyday lives. Research on Internet use has shown that people’s online experiences are influenced by their level of know-how about the platforms they use. Extending the literature on Internet skills, this article focuses on people’s algorithm skills in the domain of voice assistants. Are people aware of how algorithms influence what information they receive when using voice assistants? Drawing on 83 interviews conducted in 5 countries, we find that only a few participants explicitly mentioned the terms algorithms and artificial intelligence. Still, many seemed to be aware of the existence of automatic decision-making processes in voice assistants. This awareness was not necessarily based on their own experience with voice assistants, however. Rather, it was often a result of experiences with other digital devices and services such as Google Search, Facebook, Amazon, or smartphones, as well as information from social contacts and the media. We discuss the relevance of being aware of algorithms as one dimension of Internet skills.


algorithm skills, algorithm awareness, Internet skills, voice assistants, users, interviews

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