Googling Google: Search Engines as Market Actors
There is a large body of research on corporate ownership and control of traditional media, such as print, television, and radio. Comparatively, research about corporate control of what we see online is underdeveloped, yet search engines are often the first place students uncritically look for research as opposed to the library website, catalogs, and discovery services. Dr. Safiya Noble shows that Google image searches for black women often perpetuate and reinforce dominant narratives involving racism and misogyny. As Google is often seen as neutral, such search results are presented as “natural,” the way things are, when in fact they are the products of capitalism, hegemonic patriarchy, and white supremacy. Interrogating results such as these is one goal of this lesson plan, along with getting students to think critically about, to problematize, the everyday tools used in the research process and to explore links between capitalism and racism, misogyny, and homophobia.
Articulate clearly how algorithms such as PageRank influence information-seeking behavior and search results. Explain Google’s data security and privacy issues. Create searches that show critical thinking and awareness of how Google works.