The Algorithms Got Me

Sometimes I think I’m messing with the algorithms of my media consumption when I research things for classes I teach. Recently I’ve been working with a class exploring the Blues. I know…it’s a big genre and there’s lots to cover, but like most of my classes, we find a path and we follow it and make stops along the way. Curious how music finds you where you’re at and not where you think you’re going.

As we explore the blues and the importance of it throughout the 20th and now the 21st century of music, I started noticing more and more articles about Ahmaud Arbery. The reporting of anyone’s death by the hands of another is tragic, however this one stopped me in my tracks. Although there is much to discuss about race and how people of color are seen in the United States, I’m going take a moment and tell you what my algorithm did to me.

As I am reading another NY Times article about the Arbery case with my morning coffee, I had my music media player playing from the list of music recommend to me. I often do something like this before I start teaching. Eventually my teaching of the blues and this particular shooting in Georgia came crashing together when my computer played Strange Fruit performed by Billie Holiday followed by When Will I Get To Be Called A Man performed by Big Billy Broonzy.

Why these two songs, and in that order?

I turned the music down, took a moment to collect myself, then I got ready for class.

Sometime I think my algorithm is reading my mind.