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Search Engine Society

ISBN: 978-0-7456-4214-7
196 pages
December 2008, Polity
Search Engine Society (0745642144) cover image


Search engines have become a key part of our everyday lives. Yet while much has been written about how to use search engines and how they can be improved, there has been comparatively little exploration of what the social and cultural effects might be. Like all technologies, search engines exist within a larger political, cultural, and economic environment. This volume aims to redress this balance and to address crucial questions such as:

* How have search engines changed the way we organize our thoughts about the world, and how we work?
* What are the ‘search engine wars', what do they portend for the future of search, and who wins or loses?
* To what extent does political control of search engines, or the political influence of search engines, affect how they are used, misused, and regulated?
* Does the search engine help shape our identities and interactions with others, and what implications does this have for privacy?

Informed members of the information society must understand the social contexts in which search engines have been developed, what that development says about us as a society, and the role of the search engine in the global information environment. This book provides the perfect starting point.

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Table of Contents



Chapter 1: The Engines.

Chapter 2: Searching.

Chapter 3: Attention.

Chapter 4: Knowledge & Democracy.

Chapter 5: Censorship.

Chapter 6: Privacy.

Chapter 7: Sociable Search.

Chapter 8: Future Finding.




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Author Information

Alexander Halavais is a social architect, interested in ways of helping form a culture of creativity, freedom and justice. He is an assistant professor at Quinnipiac University, where he teaches in a masters program in interactive communications. Halavais has published extensively on the role of computing in social change, and edited an anthology entitled ‘Cyberporn & Society.’
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The Wiley Advantage

  • An introduction to one of the hottest topics in digital media studies - search engines.

  • Gives a grounded and accessible overview of the social impact of search engines - from the ways we access and organise knowledge through to the political implications around censorship and privacy.

  • Considers the full range of search engines and places this in the context of the “search engine wars” and the big business behind an everyday phenomenon.

  • Introduces issues around the new generation of search and web 2.0 and the future of search.

  • Previous titles in the field have been “how to” books for improving page rank or books about specific search engines. This is the first student friendly overview.
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“Alex Halavais has done us a great favor with this book. He explains lucidly what is at stake in the emerging ‘Search Engine Society’. This book is destined to be a central work in the field of digital media studies for many years.”
Siva Vaidhyanathan, University of Virginia

“Too many of us approach search engines as if they are neutral, democratic, all-revealing guides to the internet. Alex Halavais shows that this belief can actually be dangerous, and he provocatively suggests ways to rethink our personal and collective policies toward search systems in the interest of a healthy civic culture.”
Joseph Turow, University of Pennsylvania

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