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Title: Evaluation as governance : the practical politics of reviewing, rating and ranking on the web
Author: Ziewitz, Malte
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2013
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There is hardly anything these days that is not being evaluated on the web. Books, dishwashers, lawyers, ex -boyfriends, doctors, haircuts and websites are just some examples targeted by novel review, rating and ranking schemes. Used in an increasing number of areas, these schemes tend 10 be conceptualised as techno-scientific solutions to public problems. By soliciting and aggregating feedback and distributing it as comments, lits, ratings and stories, they are thought to make hidden qualities transparent, hold people 10 account and foster participation. At the same time, the rapid proliferation of evaluative practice and its far-ranging implications have raised a number of concerns. This thesis sets out to investigate these claims through an empirical study of two distinct settings: web-based patient feedback and search engine optimisation. Drawing together recent work in Science and Technology Studies (STS), Neo-Foucauldian governance theory and ethnomethodology, I shall argue that there is a pressing need to appreciate and engage with evaluation both as and in practice. Attending to the everyday work of establishing, maintaining and- at times-disrupting these schemes, I set out to recast the current debate on online reviews, ratings and rankings and offer an alternative outlook by "respecifying" (Garfinkcl, 199 1) evaluation as governance. My ethnographic engagement with both patient feedback and search rankings allows me to reflect on a number of aspects of evaluative practice in digital media. Specifically, I explore the currency and status of "experience" as an ordering device; I report on "political moments" in review and moderation practices; I join the speculative work of SED consultants in search for a ranking formula; and I examine the various ways of ethicising participation in evaluative practice. The thesis suggests that evaluative practice-whether through accounting or counting- is peculiar in that it enacts its own intelligible character. Attending 10 these operations allows us to better understand how evaluators and evaluated, care and relevance, procedures and organisation are contingently accomplished in ongoing everyday practice.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available