Wrenching open the black box by Australian Broadcasting Corporation
Algorithms are an increasing part of our everyday lives.
They are constantly making decisions about us, yet they rarely explain their reasoning.
In this story, opaqueness is used as a storytelling device – ‘black-box’ algorithms, as they’re often called, serve as a visual metaphor.
An impressive 3D animation in the ‘cold open’ sets up the concept, shows its scope, and hints at the existence of tools that can help solve it.
This visual treatment is revisited throughout the story, first letting readers ‘look inside the box’ to understand how algorithms can entrench bias, then illustrating how various tools are available that will increase the transparency of algorithms.
Audience feedback showed that, through the consistent visual metaphor deployed alongside comments from expert commentary, this story functioned as an accessible explainer for a complex, technical topic.
“I had always thought of algorithms as ‘not my area of interest’ and ‘too hard to understand’ but this, including the visuals, helped me get over my preconceptions.”
“It seems surface level by choice, so as to be understood by a broad readership... Also the experts consulted are relevant.”
The focus on solutions offered readers a sense of hope that the status-quo of non-transparent use of algorithms could be changed.