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In Search of Search and its Engines

New perspectives on the impact of search in culture and everyday life. Theme 2020-2021

Search and its engines are some of the most powerful actors in increasingly pervasive online information ecosystems. But search is invisibilized as it is integrated into tools like voice assistants, and its engines constantly grow more complex and opaque.

New media and information literacies are needed if we are to both exploit the abundance of knowledge now available at a keystroke and mitigate the biases and misinformation algorithms can promote and reinforce. As scientists struggle to assert claims on objective truth, governments rush to manage homegrown and foreign propaganda and disinformation campaigns, and citizens navigate fragmented media landscapes and recommendation-system traps, the ubiquity and power of search and the dilemmas of our dependence on it are clear.

About the Theme

This Theme focuses on the intersection between search, search engines, and search-adjacent recommender systems and media & information literacies.Thematic areas of interest include the algorithms and indexes that comprise search engines; the relationships between search engines’ calculations of relevance and individual users’ understandings of quality; the comparative study of search before and after search engines; the impact of results on future behavior; and authority and trust in online information.

Our core research team brings together experts with backgrounds in the humanities, social sciences, law, and engineering, and our guests bring cutting-edge technical and conceptual contributions. Together we will offer new perspectives on the impact of search in culture and everyday life.