The PR BlogDigital PRData-Driven PRThe 7 Graphs of Algorithms: You're Not Unknown

The 7 Graphs of Algorithms: You’re Not Unknown

Each click, like, share, and update is shaping our future.

Cover photo: @jerrysilfwer

Let’s explore the dif­fer­ent graphs of algorithms.

To the unini­ti­ated, an algorithm might seem as daunt­ing as deci­pher­ing hiero­glyphs or nav­ig­at­ing the shift­ing paths of a quantum universe. 

Yet, at their core, algorithms are just a series of graphs, eleg­ant recipes of the com­pu­ta­tion­al world, mar­ry­ing logic and cre­ativ­ity in a math­em­at­ic­al dance, orches­trat­ing our world’s tech­no­lo­gies from the shadows.

What are these graphs — and what can they do? 

Here we go:

The Secret Architects of the Digital Epoch

In the gentle hum of the 21st-cen­tury land­scape, in the sil­hou­ettes of the tall serv­er racks and the twink­ling lights of the ever-ubi­quit­ous smart­phones, one finds the quiet pulse of a new glob­al life force: the algorithm. 

Unseen yet omni­present, algorithms are the secret archi­tects of our digit­al lives, under­ground labyrinths of cable and invis­ible tsuna­mis of radi­owaves, extend­ing tendrils into every corner of our existence.

An algorithm could be as simple as sort­ing a list of num­bers or as com­plex as a multi-layered deep neur­al net­work trained to recog­nize human faces in a bust­ling crowd.

As we nav­ig­ate the com­plex­ity of this digit­al epoch, it’s our respons­ib­il­ity to ensure that the vast poten­tial of these algorithmic leviath­ans is har­nessed to illu­min­ate the human exper­i­ence, not to shroud it. 

The Paradoxical Power of Algorithms

In today’s world, algorithms pro­pel us into the digit­al age. They fil­ter the news we read, optim­ize our travel routes, sug­gest the music we listen to, and even find romantic partners. 

Algorithms are the pup­pet­eers behind the grand spec­tacle of online advert­ising, decid­ing in split seconds which ads to show us based on an intric­ate tapestry of data points. The world of fin­ance, too, has bowed to their reign, with algorithmic trad­ing becom­ing the pulsat­ing heart­beat of Wall Street.

The power algorithms hold is immense and, quite pos­sibly, bey­ond our com­pre­hen­sion. They’re no longer just tools for execut­ing mundane tasks; they’ve evolved to learn, pre­dict, and, in a sense, under­stand. In light of rap­id devel­op­ments in AI, who knows what the mul­ti­pli­er will be?

They offer a mir­ror to our col­lect­ive psyche, cap­tur­ing pat­terns in our beha­viour, our desires, and our fears. Yet, therein lies the para­dox. This power — beau­ti­ful and ter­ri­fy­ing — can be wiel­ded for the great­er good or serve as a con­duit for manip­u­la­tion, rein­for­cing biases, and infringing on privacy.

Who knows?

Shaping Norms and Sculpting Futures

The might of today’s algorithms is their abil­ity to sort, recom­mend, fil­ter, and per­son­al­ise and their capa­city to sway human beha­viour and subtly sculpt soci­et­al norms. The pre­cise meas­ure of their influ­ence is still being unravelled. 

Yet, what is bey­ond doubt is that our lives have become entwined with these math­em­at­ic­al minotaurs. We live in a world painted with broad strokes of human cre­ativ­ity but filled in with the del­ic­ate brush­work of algorithms.

In the grand scheme of human exist­ence, the algorith­m’s reign is rel­at­ively nas­cent, and our soci­ety is still grap­pling with the implic­a­tions of its influ­ence. As we look towards a future where algorithms will undeni­ably play a cent­ral role, it becomes more cru­cial than ever to under­stand their power and to ensure their use is trans­par­ent, fair, and bene­fi­cial for all. 

Their eth­er­e­al whis­pers, rever­ber­at­ing through the cir­cuits of the digit­al cos­mos, must be guided by the prin­ciples of human­ity as they con­tin­ue to write the story of our era.

The Architecture of Graphs and Networks

Amid the flux of bytes and pixels, our col­lect­ive con­scious­ness is emer­ging, shap­ing and shap­ing a new archi­tec­ture. It is an archi­tec­ture of graphs and net­works, map­ping our desires and curi­os­it­ies, fears and friend­ships, com­merce and culture.

Akin to the star maps that once guided explorers through vast, uncharted seas, these graphs chart the vast and ever-expand­ing seas of data, serving as celes­ti­al com­passes for the titans of the digit­al realm — the search engines, the social net­works, the behemoth online ser­vices that boast user bases as pop­u­lous as nations. 

Each click, each like, each share and tweet weaves into an intric­ate tapestry of user data, provid­ing these digit­al giants with a wealth of insights to max­im­ise their long-term busi­ness poten­tial, sim­ul­tan­eously shap­ing our digit­al inter­ac­tions and reflect­ing our col­lect­ive desires. 

So what’s the Original Sin of the Internet? Nearly all busi­ness mod­els it sup­ports require spy­ing on con­sumers and mon­et­ising them.”
— Bob Sullivan, author and journalist 

When viewed through the lens of the sev­en types of graphs, this data forms the skel­et­on key to our digit­al identities.

Enter: The 7 Graphs of Algorithms

Types of Algorithm Graphs

Search engines, social net­works, and online ser­vices with large user bases all have a wealth of data to design and optim­ise the user experience. 

This data, when viewed through the lens of the sev­en types of graphs, forms the skel­et­on key to our digit­al identities:

  • Social Graph. The media com­pany can access your friend list and push their con­tent (or favoured con­tent) into your feed.
  • Interest Graph. The media com­pany can access your interests (top­ics, per­sons of interest, dif­fi­culty level, format pref­er­ences, on-plat­form-spe­cif­ic beha­viours etc.) from your usage history.
  • Predictive Graph. The media com­pany can access all graphs from users not con­nec­ted to you but with whom you share a stat­ist­ic­al like­ness and show their pre­ferred con­tent to you.
  • Prescriptive Graph. The media com­pany can push con­tent into your feed to manip­u­late your over­all emo­tion­al exper­i­ence of using the platform.
  • Trend Graph. The media com­pany can push con­tent into your feed based on what seems to be trend­ing on the platform.
  • Contextual Graph. The media com­pany can access con­tex­tu­al data like loc­a­tion, weath­er, cal­en­dar events, affil­i­ations, world events, and loc­al events.
  • Commercial Graph. The media com­pany can access data on how you and oth­ers like you inter­act with com­mer­cial content.

The dif­fer­ent graphs are typ­ic­ally weighted dif­fer­ently. For instance, some media com­pan­ies will allow a fair degree of social graph con­tent, while oth­ers almost none. Changes are con­stantly being enforced, and the Silent Switch might be the most not­able example where media com­pan­ies are shift­ing away from the social graph.

The media com­pany can lever­age these graphs using two main approaches:

  • Matching. The media com­pany can use vari­ous graphs to gen­er­ate your social feed. Depending on the com­plex­ity of the ana­lys­is, this approach is slow and expens­ive with react­ive (unpre­dict­able) results.
  • Profiling. The media com­pany can use vari­ous graphs to place you in stat­ist­ic­al sub­groups, allow­ing con­tent to iter­ate to the right audi­ence. This approach is fast and cheap with pro­act­ive (pre­dict­able) results.

Today, pro­fil­ing seems to be the dom­in­ant approach amongst media companies.

Learn more: The 7 Graphs of Algorithms: You’re Not Unknown

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Please sup­port my PR blog by shar­ing it with oth­er com­mu­nic­a­tion pro­fes­sion­als. For ques­tions or PR sup­port, con­tact me via jerry@​spinfactory.​com.

PR Resource: The Silent Switch

The Silent Switch

Not that long ago, social media algorithms would deliv­er organ­ic reach accord­ing to a dis­tri­bu­tion that looked like this:

The Silent Switch - Doctor Spin - The PR Blog.001
Social media algorithms before the silent switch (click to enlarge).

Today, social media algorithms deliv­er organ­ic reach more like this:

The Silent Switch - Doctor Spin - The PR Blog.002
Social media algorithms after the silent switch (click to enlarge).

It’s the Silent Switch where social net­works have demoted the pub­lish­er­’s author­ity and repu­ta­tion and pro­moted single con­tent per­form­ance instead.

This algorithmic change has likely had pro­found and severe media logic amplifications:

Classic Media Logic Effects

Media logic is hypo­thes­ised to influ­ence the news media in the fol­low­ing ways: 1Nord, L., & Strömbäck, J. (2002, January). Tio dagar som skakade världen. En stud­ie av medi­ernas beskrivningar av ter­ror­at­tack­erna mot USA och kri­get i Afghanistan hösten 2001. ResearchGate; … Continue read­ing

  • Aggravation. As a res­ult of media logic, the news media will exag­ger­ate events, con­cepts, and ideas to make them seem more ser­i­ous and/​or dan­ger­ous than they are.
  • Simplification. As a res­ult of media logic, the news media will dumb down events, con­cepts, and ideas to make them seem more under­stand­able than they are.
  • Polarisation. As a res­ult of media logic, the news media will por­tray events, con­cepts, and ideas as more conflicting/​provoking than they are.
  • Intensification. As a res­ult of media logic, the news media will sen­sa­tion­al­ise events, con­cepts, and ideas to make them more inter­est­ing than they are.
  • Concreteness. As a res­ult of media logic, the news media will report events, con­cepts, and ideas as more straight­for­ward than they are.
  • Personalisation. As a res­ult of media logic, the news media will over-emphas­ise the role of named indi­vidu­als in con­junc­tion with events, con­cepts, and ideas.
  • Stereotypisation. As a res­ult of media logic, the news media will frame events, con­cepts, and ideas as more aligned with con­ven­tion­al perceptions/​opinions than they are.

Social Media Logic Effects

  • Programmability. Social media logic enables and encour­ages users to cre­ate and manip­u­late con­tent, lead­ing to a tailored por­tray­al of events, con­cepts, and ideas that might not fully rep­res­ent reality.
  • Popularity. Driven by social media logic, con­tent that gains ini­tial pop­ular­ity can dis­pro­por­tion­ately influ­ence pub­lic per­cep­tion, regard­less of accur­acy or completeness.
  • Connectivity. Social medi­a’s inter­con­nec­ted nature, rein­forced by social media logic, facil­it­ates the rap­id spread of inform­a­tion, often without suf­fi­cient veri­fic­a­tion, lead­ing to a dis­tor­ted under­stand­ing of events and ideas.
  • Datafication. The social media logic of con­vert­ing inter­ac­tions into data points emphas­ises quan­ti­fi­able aspects of events, con­cepts, and ideas, poten­tially over­look­ing their qual­it­at­ive nuances.

Our job as PR pro­fes­sion­als is to help organ­isa­tions nav­ig­ate the media land­scape and com­mu­nic­ate more effi­ciently — espe­cially in times of change.

Read also: The Silent Switch: How Algorithms Have Changed

💡 Subscribe and get a free ebook on how to get bet­ter PR ideas.

Jerry Silfwer
Jerry Silfwerhttps://doctorspin.net/
Jerry Silfwer, alias Doctor Spin, is an awarded senior adviser specialising in public relations and digital strategy. Currently CEO at Spin Factory and KIX Communication Index. Before that, he worked at Kaufmann, Whispr Group, Springtime PR, and Spotlight PR. Based in Stockholm, Sweden.

The Cover Photo

The cover photo isn't related to public relations; it's just a photo of mine. Think of it as a 'decorative diversion', a subtle reminder that there is more to life than strategic communication.

The cover photo has

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