Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-2439

Article | Open Access

Young People Learning About Algorithms: Five Profiles Spanning From Ineptitude to Enchantment

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Abstract:  This article focuses on young people’s understanding of algorithms and their learning methods. While many younger individuals are deeply familiar with digital media, it is erroneous to assume that this familiarity is equivalent to operational or critical knowledge. Given that algorithm awareness has only recently become a topic of debate, daily life practices and knowledge processes need further study, particularly through the lens of audiences. The analysis is based on 42 interviews carried out as part of a project on young people, news, and digital citizenship in Portugal. From the analysis, we came up with five profiles that include different ways of understanding and learning about algorithms: ethereal, ambivalent, unfamiliar, negative, and positive perspectives. Preliminary findings reveal strategies youth employ to bypass the influence of algorithms, with a dominant perspective of learning through the proximity contexts: alone, with social media (TikTok and Instagram), with peers/family, and few cases mentioning school, that surprisingly, is almost absent as a learning atmosphere. Given the newness of the collective awareness of the power of algorithms, the presented scenario claims that we need for a more structural and institutional learning context and response, which could help prevent recurring scenarios akin to digital “bowling alone.”

Keywords:  algorithms; digital inclusion; digital natives; digital rights; learning processes; young people



© Maria José Brites, Teresa Sofia Castro, Mariana S. Müller, Margarida Maneta. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.