Excerpts:

  • “Search remains the most performed internet activity.1 In July 2011 alone, Americans conducted 19.2 billion core search queries, and Google processed 12.5 billion of them, commanding 65.1 percent of the U.S. search market (comScore 2011).2 It processed 91 percent of searches globally during the same month” (Hillis, Petit, Jarrett 3).
  • “Online and mobile search practices and the algorithms that determine results are accepted by most searchers as utilitarian—though widely understood to be powerful, their very ubiquity has quickly naturalized them into the backgrounds, fabrics, spaces, and places of everyday life. As practices, they are above all efficient and convenient and therefore conceived as politically neutral as if efficiency and convenience were not the meta-ideologies of the contemporary technicized, consumerist conjuncture. The conception of search as purely utilitarian and therefore, for many publics, as politically neutral, extends to the purportedly neutral technologies upon which it relies. As if the sociometric search algorithms had somehow designed themselves” (Hillis, Petit, Jarrett 5).
  • “Google has achieved consecrated status in the two senses offered above. It is a business corporation, part of the overall economy, and as such is not set apart from Wall Street, financial markets, and the bottom line. And, the way we use it and have come to rely on it—the multitude of searchers, the population of individuals making up “Wall Street,” the corporation, the state, and you, dear reader—has collectively transformed it from being merely useful to a sacred portal for information, the communion wafer of contemporary Do-it-Yourself life. Even the most critical academic scholars of Google are intimate with its functionalities” (Hillis, Petit, Jarrett 7)

Notes:

  • PageRank underpins Google’s search technologies
  • Some believe that technology transcending in the sense of con- necting to a state of awareness, of living, of being, that transcends our day-to-day life
  • Google’s ubiquity, hegemony, and consecration mean that its power to shape access to information is unprecedented, and accordingly PageRank has received considerable academic attention
  • Because Google records each searcher’s IP address, it remembers previous searches and customizes future searches based on past individual patterns and the aggregation of prior user choices and personal preferences. Past becomes future.
  • Collective attitudes can evolve or even suddenly shift so that we may come to see a corporation, technology, or social practice differently than we do now. If Google were to fail to maintain alignment with the shifting trust demands of searchers; betray them by too often failing to keep private data safe (the 2010 Gmail hack13); too frequently release such data to state agencies (“Google Gives User Data to Government in Most Cases”14); fail to maintain the libertarian “information wants to be free” values that support its consecration, then its legitimacy could be lost

Thoughts:

After reading this article, I realized that I have taken the capabilities of Google for granted. I use Google at least once every few days, and I have never before thought about the algorithms and processes that go into PageRank and the other components of the search process. I now feel more aware of what Google’s abilities are and how they affect our Internet searches. 

Questions to Consider:

  • How do we use Google in our day-to –day lives?
  • What would our lives be like without access to Google every day?

Citations:

Hillis, Ken, Kylie Jarrett, and Michael Petit. “Google and the Culture of Search.” (n.d.): n. pag. Web.

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