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 H√ľbel & 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 ūüėČ )

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 √§hnliche Funktionen √ľbernommen haben ‚Äď Staatshandb√ľcher und Diener etwa, aber auch Bibliothekskataloge, Frageb√∂gen oder Zeitungskomptoire. Welche strukturellen √Ąhnlichkeiten gibt es zwischen diesen fr√ľheren und den heutigen Suchmaschinen? Welche Utopien kn√ľpften sich an die Suchmaschinen des analogen Zeitalters? Welche Formen von Kontrolle erm√∂glichten sie? Das vorgestellte Buch widmet sich diesen und weiteren Fragen und liefert damit nicht nur neue Erkenntnisse √ľber die Medien der Vergangenheit, sondern vertieft auch die Analysen der gegenw√§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.

√ĖAW topic of the month: ICTs

Each month the Austrian Academy of Sciences defines and discusses a “topic of the month”. The current issue deals with new communication technologies and presents three ITA projects. Besides my own project “Glocal Search“, the EU projects “Value Ageing” and “European Perspectives on Cloud Computing and Social Networks” are featured. The √ĖAW portraits of the projects can be found online or in the paper magazine “Thema Forschung” (October). Enjoy reading!

Pics & press coverage from APA eBusiness event

Last week we had a very lively discussion on new media – search engines and facebook – and privacy (see blog post below). Central questions were how these new online services use personal data to create profit, what privacy violations that involves, and how to meet these challenges with (EU) regulations and strategies of digital self-defense. It was a highly diverse, but really interesting combination of people on the round table including Johannes Juranek (CMS), Helmut Waitzer (Navax), Max Schrems (Initiative ‚ÄúEuropa gegen Facebook‚ÄĚ) und Markus Deutsch (WKO) and me.

© photo credit: APA-Fotoservice/Rossboth

Check out the fotos & press coverage (e.g. APA Science & futurezone) of the event for more information!

Algorithmic ideology on science.orf.at

The interview I gave last week for science.ORF; a website of the Austrian TV broadcast, is online now. Thanks to Lukas Wieselberg!! Here’s the abstract (in German):

Die Ideologie des Algorithmus

Die Sozialwissenschaftlerin Astrid Mager hat untersucht, wie Google, Bing und andere Suchmaschinen entstehen. Im Mittelpunkt standen dabei nicht die Technologien, sondern die Werte, die hinter der Entwicklung stecken. Die “Ideologie des Suchalgorithmus” ist Ausdruck des gegenw√§rtigen Kapitalismus, sagt Mager.

© photo credit: EPA/ science.orf

=> read the full story on science.orf.at.

“Black Box Suchmaschine” Video Archive

Yesterday we had a great event at the Museumsquartier in Vienna: our “Themenabend Black Box Suchmaschine” (see program below). For those who missed the event and can’t wait to watch it online (or parts of it ūüėČ ) we archived the video stream here:

Thanks to Axel Kittenberger for the technical support & the stream! & everyone, who participated and made this evening a great contribution to the politics of search, modes of ordering knowledge, privacy and regulation (which triggered a heated debate, as you can see towards the end of the video)..

Finally, Ren√© K√∂nig presented the newly formed network Re:Search – a mailinglist established in co-operation with the Institute of Network Cultures, Amsterdam (Geert Lovink). Subscribing to the list is only the first step, further activities will follow – Blog posts on the Society of the Query Blog, events, a publication hopefully! So stay tuned ūüėČ

Themenabend: Black Box Suchmaschine, 25.4.2012, 18.30, MQ/ Raum D

I’m already looking forward to the event “Black Box Suchmaschine. Google & co. im gesellschaftspolitischen Kontext” I’m organizing together with Ren√© K√∂nig (in cooperation with our research group Internet Research).

Here’s the abstract & the program featuring great speakers!!! (in German)

Termin: 25.04.2012, 18.30
Ort:
Museumsquartier Wien, Raum D
Zudem Online-Anbindung durch Streaming und/oder Microblogging.

(Image credit: Anja Goller. Something interesting..)

Suchmaschinen wie Google pr√§gen das Netz wie kaum ein anderer Dienst. Zwar gewinnen soziale Netzwerkseiten wie Facebook zunehmend an Bedeutung, doch werden Nutzungsstatistiken noch immer von Suchmaschinen dominiert. ‚ÄěGoogeln‚Äú ist eine allt√§gliche Praxis geworden, die nur selten hinterfragt wird. Dabei strukturieren Suchmaschinen unseren Zugang zu Netzinformationen ma√ügeblich. In der Privatwirtschaft ist diese Erkenntnis l√§ngst etabliert und Firmen geben viel Geld f√ľr sogenannte Suchmaschinenoptimierung aus. Aus gutem Grund, denn bisherige Nutzungsforschung zeigt deutlich, dass mehrheitlich den hierarchischen Ordnungen der Ergebnislisten gefolgt wird. Gleichzeitig wird dabei h√§ufig eine fragw√ľrdige Datenpolitik betrieben, die immer wieder f√ľr Kontroversen sorgt. Erst k√ľrzlich hat sich etwa Google mit seinen ge√§nderten Nutzungsbedingungen wieder ins Zentrum des √∂ffentlichen Interesses katapultiert. Denn seit M√§rz m√ľssen angemeldete NutzerInnen zustimmen, dass das Unternehmen umfangreiche User-Daten aus seinen verschiedenen Diensten (dazu geh√∂rt nicht nur Google Web Search sondern auch beispielsweise Google Maps, Google Mail, YouTube, Google+ uvm.) zusammenf√ľhrt, was Datensch√ľtzerInnen auf die Barrikaden steigen l√§sst. Entsprechend kommt Suchmaschinen wie Google eine erhebliche gesellschaftspolitische Bedeutung zu, mit der sich unser Themenabend ‚ÄěBlack Box Suchmaschine‚Äú aus unterschiedlichen Blickwinkeln auseinander setzen m√∂chte. Dazu geben WissenschaftlerInnen Einblicke in aktuelle Forschungen, die wir zur Diskussion stellen wollen. Schlie√ülich wird im Anschluss das Netzwerk ‚Äě[Re]Search‚Äú gegr√ľndet, an dem sich alle Interessierten beteiligen k√∂nnen.

Programm

18.30 Begr√ľ√üung

18.35 Keynote:

Asymmetrische Beziehungen ‚Äď Klassifizierungsk√§mpfe in Informationsgesellschaften
Konrad Becker
Institut f√ľr neue Kulturtechnologien & World-Information.Org (Wien)

18.50-19.30 Block 1: Wie Suchmaschinen unser Wissen gestalten

Ganz persönlich? Alte und neue Soziometriken der Suchmaschinen
Katja Mayer
Universität Wien, Wissenschaftsforschung

Das suchende Individuum ‚Äď Subjektive Perspektiven zwischen globalen Strukturen und Personalisierung
René König
Karlsruher Institut f√ľr Technologie

Vertrauen, Diversität und Empfehlungssoftware
Judith Simon
Universit√§t Wien / Karlsruher Institut f√ľr Technologie

19.30-20.10 Block 2: Wie Google & co. mit unseren Daten Geld verdienen

Suche und Werbung: Fundamentale Interessenkonflikte im Google-Empire
Bernhard Rieder
Universität Amsterdam

Suchmaschinen im Spannungsfeld von globaler Informationsökonomie und lokaler Gesellschaftspolitik
Astrid Mager
√Ėsterreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften

Auf der (Web-)Suche nach der informationellen Selbstbestimmung ‚Äď Privacy by Design als Regulierungsansatz?
Jaro Sterbik-Lamina, Stefan Strauß
√Ėsterreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften

20.10 Podiumsdiskussion
Moderierte Podiumsdiskussion mit Publikumseinbindung (auch online) zu quer liegenden Fragen der pr√§sentierten Themenschwerpunkte. Anschlie√üend Gr√ľndung des Netzwerks [Re]Search f√ľr alle Interessierten.

“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 k√ľrzlich ist Google mit seinen ge√§nderten Datenschutzbestimmungen und Nutzungsbedingungen wieder ins Zentrum des √∂ffentlichen Interesses geraten. Ob dies aus Transparenz- oder PR-Gr√ľnden der Fall war, muss an dieser Stelle offen bleiben. Welche Konsequenzen diese ab M√§rz g√ľltigen Ver√§nderungen sowohl auf globaler als auch auf lokaler Ebene nach sich ziehen, wird zentraler Bestandteil eines neuen Projekts am ITA sein: ‚ÄěGlocal Search‚Äú startet zeitgleich mit In-Kraft-Treten der genannten Richtlinien.

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

Google’s new privacy policy: quick solutions and long-term measures

Tomorrow Google starts with its new privacy policy and terms of service. “We‚Äôre getting rid of over 60 different privacy policies across Google and replacing them with one that‚Äôs a lot shorter and easier to read” Google clearly states on its website. While Google argues this concentration of privacy policies would result in a “simple product experience that does what you need”, criticism may be raised concerning fundamental socio-political implications this policy shift triggers. Google used links, search histories and click rates to personalize search results and – most of all – sponsored links in the past. From tomorrow onwards it will additionally integrate data collected from other services – including Google Mail, Google Maps, YouTube, the social networking site Google+ and many more – to target search results and ads to users’ interests and desires.

If you want to protect yourself from Google’s new privacy policy today is your last chance according to John Thomas Didymus from the Digital Journal. Just follow the instructions described in the article to delete your Google Browsing History, “along with any damning information therein”. Contrary to quick solutions offering individual opting-out strategies, however, long-term measures would be needed to seriously challenge a range of implications this policy shift triggers on a societal level, both globally and locally:

First, the increased collection and aggregation of users data on a global scale leads to even more localized and personalized search results, which may narrow or “censor” our web information landscape according to our own, local, (partly arbitrary) parameters. Second, the new privacy policy may be seen as yet another step into the direction of Google’s profit maximization. Global companies like Google create money by selling “user profiles” (generated from massive data collections) to advertising clients and hence turn both web information and users into a commodity. Finally, the new settings raise new privacy issues and data protection challenges on a local level, where stricter regulations exist than in the US. While corporate search engines succeed very well in localizing their products and services, local policy makers and data protection experts still seem to be overwhelmed by global developments in the information economy.

These tensions between global economic trends and local socio-political cultures and questions how to achieve long-term measures for creating a more sustainable future of search – specifially focusing on the Austrian context – lie at the heart of my new project “Glocal Search. Search engines at the intersection of global capitalism and local socio-political cultures”. This project will start tomorrow at the Institute of Technology Assessement (ITA), Austrian Academy of Sciences, in Vienna – at the same time as Google’s new privacy settings take effect. The project is funded by the Jubil√§umsfonds of the Oesterreichische Nationalbank (OeNB), project number 14702. A detailed description of the project and “glocal” implications search engines pose will soon be published in the ITA newsletter (March issue). I will post the article on my blog once it has been put online. Further, I’ll put up a project page later this month. So stay tuned!