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Title: Understanding Google : search engines and the changing nature of access, thought and knowledge within a global context
Author: Graham, Richard Norroy
Awarding Body: University of Exeter
Current Institution: University of Exeter
Date of Award: 2017
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This thesis explores the impact of Google’s search engine within contemporary digital culture. Search engines have been studied in various disciplines, for example information retrieval, computer science, law, and new media, yet much of this work remains fixed within disciplinary boundaries. The approach of this thesis is to draw on work from a number of areas in order to link a technical understanding of how search engines function with a wider cultural and philosophical context. In particular, this thesis draws on critical theory in order to attend to the convergence of language, programming, and culture on a global scale. The chapter outline is as follows. Chapter one compares search engine queries to traditional questions. The chapter draws from information retrieval research to provide a technical framework that is brought into contact with philosophy and critical theory, including Plato and Hans-Georg Gadamer. Chapter two investigates search engines as memory aids, deploying a history of memory and exploring practices within oral cultures and mnemonic techniques such as the Ars Memoria. This places search engines within a longer historical context, while drawing on contemporary insights from the philosophy and science of cognition. Chapter three addresses Google’s Autocomplete functionality and chapter four explores the contextual nature of results in order to highlight how different characteristics of users are used to personalise access to the web. These chapters address Google’s role within a global context and the implications for identity and community online. Finally, chapter five explores how Google’s method of generating revenue, through advertising, has a social impact on the web as a whole, particularly when considered through the lens of contemporary Post-Fordist accounts of capitalism. Throughout, this thesis develops a framework for attending to algorithmic cultures and outlines the specific influence that Google has had on the web and continues to have at a global scale.
Supervisor: Gagnier, Regenia ; Salisbury, Laura Sponsor: Arts and Humanities Research Council
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Digital Culture ; Search Engine Studies ; Cultural Criticism ; Contemporary Literature ; Critical Theory ; Google ; Software Studies ; Complex Networks ; Media Studies ; Cultural Studies ; Language and Linguistics ; Platform Studies ; Algorithmic Cultures ; World Wide Web Studies ; Internet Studies ; Philosophy of Computing