vor google

On the 9th of April the book “Vor Google. Eine Mediengeschichte der Suchmaschine im analogen Zeitalter” will be presented and discussed in the Wienbibliothek im Rathaus (in German). The book is edited by Thomas Brandstetter, Thomas HĂŒbel & Anton Tantner and contains a number of essays on “analogue search engines” including bible citation indexes, state calendars of the 18th century and their hierarchical system, newspaper comptoirs, servants as crucial information centers, Vannevar Bush’s Memex and the politics of bibliometrics.

Since I’ll be giving a short review of the book and participate in the round table discussion (along with Jana Herwig and Stefan Zahlmann) I’m currently reading through the book.
The impression I immediately got while flipping through the pages is that thinking about search engines and their predecessors from a historic angle adds great value to common search engine research. Some of the past issues – e.g. how to organize indexes, the politics of search – still haunt present-day search tools, while others have only recently been introduced – e.g. the commercial dimension of search engines and the exploitation of user data. All in all there’s much to learn from juxtaposing contemporary and past search engines!

If you wanna participate in this exciting endevour please join us on the 9th of April, 7pm, Lesesaal der Wienbibliothek im Rathaus, Eingang Lichtenfelsgasse 2, Stiege 6 (Lift), 1. Stock, 1010 Wien. (= sounds complicated, but will hopefully be doable 😉 )

Here’s the book outline from the Wienbibliothek Website, where you can find more information:

Ein Alltag ohne digitale Suchmaschinen ist heute nur noch schwer vorstellbar. Dabei lassen sich zahlreiche Einrichtungen, Personen und Techniken ausmachen, die lange vor Google und Co Ă€hnliche Funktionen ĂŒbernommen haben – StaatshandbĂŒcher und Diener etwa, aber auch Bibliothekskataloge, Fragebögen oder Zeitungskomptoire. Welche strukturellen Ähnlichkeiten gibt es zwischen diesen frĂŒheren und den heutigen Suchmaschinen? Welche Utopien knĂŒpften sich an die Suchmaschinen des analogen Zeitalters? Welche Formen von Kontrolle ermöglichten sie? Das vorgestellte Buch widmet sich diesen und weiteren Fragen und liefert damit nicht nur neue Erkenntnisse ĂŒber die Medien der Vergangenheit, sondern vertieft auch die Analysen der gegenwĂ€rtigen medialen Lage.

Technoscientific Promotion and Biofuel Policy

Jenny Eklöf and I have been collaborating on a project during my HUMlab fellowship (2010-2012). Our study investigated how the biofuel controversy plays out in the Swedish press and Google search results. The results will be published in the journal Media, Culture & Society (mid of next year). The exact phrasing of the editor goes like this:

“It will be several issues, and certainly several months, before your piece is prepared for publication and the proofs sent on to you. Please do not contact us for a specified issue number and date until 5 months or so after this note of acceptance.”

Well, if you don’t want to wait that long please let us know and we’ll send you a copy!

That’s the abstract:

What are the conditions for the public understanding of biofuels and how do the media shape these conditions under the influence of a new production of knowledge? This article investigates how the biofuel controversy plays out in the Swedish press and Google search engine results and analyses winners and losers in the tight attention economy of contemporary media. It describes different visibility strategies biofuel stakeholders employ in both media arenas, and identifies a form of technoscientific promotion that hybrid actors use to succeed in the day-to- day struggle for media attention. To conclude, it raises broader societal questions of the contemporary blurring of knowledge boundaries and the emergence of new information hierarchies and their biases. By understanding how contemporary media shape controversies, we can address the democratic potential of both mass media and science.

finally!

After two (!) years my last PhD-related article just went online! It’s been published by the popular online journal First Monday, which is – normally – known for a quick review process. But well, good things take time, as the saying goes. Since my PhD “Mediated Knowledge” (download here) deals with the computer-mediated communication of online health information you may ask whether the article is not outdated by now. That’s what I was asking myself, at any rate..

But the answer is no. Even though the empirical data may seem quite “old”, and Web 2.0 health communication has become more widespread in the meanwhile, the base line of my arguments – the “politics of online health information” challenging the democratic ideal of the web – is still valid and more relevant than ever (not least because Google managed to further enlarge its market share and hence influence over online knowledge since then). Got interested? Then check out my article “Health information politics: Reconsidering the democratic ideal of the Web as a source of medical knowledge” on First Monday and decide for yourself!

Thanks go to my HUMlab colleagues for their helpful comments on earlier drafts of the paper, Mike Frangos first and foremost!!!

“Algorithmic Ideology” accepted by Information, Communication & Society

My article “Algorithmic Ideology. How capitalist society shapes search engines” got accepted by the peer-reviewed journal Information, Communication & Society. It’s gonna be published in the special issue of the OII conference: A decade in Internet Time. Thanks to the editor of the special issue Brian Loader for the (rather quick), but effective review process.

Here’s the abstract:

Algorithmic Ideology. How capitalist society shapes search engines

This article investigates how the new spirit of capitalism gets inscribed in the fabric of search algorithms by way of social practices. Drawing on the tradition of the social construction of technology (SCOT) and 17 qualitative expert interviews it discusses how search engines and their revenue models are negotiated and stabilized in a network of actors and interests, website providers and users first and foremost. It further shows how corporate search engines and their capitalist ideology are solidified in a socio-political context characterized by a techno-euphoric climate of innovation and a politics of privatization. This analysis provides a valuable contribution to contemporary search engine critique mainly focusing on search engines’ business models and societal implications. It shows that a shift of perspective is needed from impacts search engines have on society towards social practices and power relations involved in the construction of search engines to renegotiate search engines and their algorithmic ideology in the future.

Here’s the link to the preprint version (only minor revisions in the final version). Please make sure you cite the journal article, which is online now!!! :) Thx!

article in ITA newsletter

That’s the article in the current ITA newsletter (only in German unfortunately). It’s on my project GLOCAL SEARCH and related issues discussed in the blogpost below.

“Glokale” Perspektive auf  Google & co.

Erst kĂŒrzlich ist Google mit seinen geĂ€nderten Datenschutzbestimmungen und Nutzungsbedingungen wieder ins Zentrum des öffentlichen Interesses geraten. Ob dies aus Transparenz- oder PR-GrĂŒnden der Fall war, muss an dieser Stelle offen bleiben. Welche Konsequenzen diese ab MĂ€rz gĂŒltigen VerĂ€nderungen sowohl auf globaler als auch auf lokaler Ebene nach sich ziehen, wird zentraler Bestandteil eines neuen Projekts am ITA sein: „Glocal Search“ startet zeitgleich mit In-Kraft-Treten der genannten Richtlinien.

Der gesamte Text findet sich auf der ITA Website zum download.

search engines matter

Finally, another article deriving from my PhD work has been accepted by a peer-review journal :) It’s the Oxford Internet Institute (OII) journal Policy and Internet. The article with the title “Search Engines Matter: From educating users towards engaging with online health information practices” will be published in May 2012, in the special issue on eHealth. I’d like to thank the guest editors Rik Crutzen and Gordon Gao, as well as the managing editor David Sutcliffe, who was a great help in the whole peer-review process! Further I’d like to thank my Viennese colleagues, who contributed to the empirical work for the article, my HUMlab colleagues for having supported me during my stay in Sweden, and Mike Frangos, who commented on earlier drafts of the paper and helped me with editing the English!!

I’ve posted the abstract below and will add the link to the article once it has been put online.

While the internet is often discussed as empowering or endangering patients due to broadening access to medical and health-related information, little is known about the way patients actually get informed about medical conditions and how the technology shapes their practices. This article draws on 40 user observations and 40 qualitative interviews to explore how users employ the web to obtain knowledge about a chronic disease in the Austrian context. Following concepts from the field of Science and Technology Studies (STS) it elaborates how users’ individual medical preferences and search engines’ mechanisms of pre-filtering information co-shape online health information practices. This analysis exemplifies that search engines are no passive intermediaries, but rather actively shape how users browse through, select and evaluate health information in the context of their own bodies of knowledge. Accordingly, new skills are required on the part of users, but also on the part of medical professionals and policy makers. Both policy makers and doctors are invited to engage with users’ highly individual search practices and establish more dialogue-oriented and technology-focused health policy measures, rather than trying to educate users with standardized quality criteria for websites not responding to users’ online routines and needs, as will be finally concluded.