Social aspects of search engines

by Eszter Hargittai on May 18, 2007

For your weekend reading pleasure: the special theme section of the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication I edited on The Social, Political, Economic, and Cultural Dimensions of Search Engines is out. The Introduction gives you the motivation for this collection and a summary of the pieces. From the Abstract:

Search engines are some of the most popular destinations on the Web—understandably so, given the vast amounts of information available to users and the need for help in sifting through online content. While the results of significant technical achievements, search engines are also embedded in social processes and institutions that influence how they function and how they are used. This special theme section of the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication explores these non-technical aspects of search engines and their uses.


The Vagina Dialogues

by John Holbo on May 18, 2007

I make a strict point of never blogging anything in the nature of a student-teacher or colleague-colleague interaction, but when a civilian knocks on my office door, comes in and says something funny, it’s fair game boyo.

So this kid comes in the door. (And he’s not a student at my institution but he’s home for the summer.) And he wants to ask me about Wittgenstein and philosophy of language and ‘reclaiming Kant’. And so I ask him a bit about what he means by that (sounds reasonable.) And, well, there is a bit of confusion. And it transpires that the reason nothing he is saying about the Sage of Königsberg is making much sense to me is that actually he’s talking about some project to do with Eve Ensler and The Vagina Monologues, etc. I ended up telling him I didn’t think Wittgenstein was quite what he was looking for. Still, these sorts of linguistic questions are quite interesting. Anyhoo. There was a moment there.

[edited to shield delicate sensibilities, ward off search engines, and to make the post funnier, actually]

White Christmas in May?

by Eszter Hargittai on May 18, 2007

I use Yahoo! Music for most of my music-listening at work. I like the service and at $60 for two years (they had a special when I signed up, the regular now is $72/year) it’s a great deal.

The system allows the user to customize various stations by giving it feedback about what songs and artists are of interest.* It’s a helpful feature, for the most part. But I think services like this might want to tweak the system so certain songs are kept off playlists at certain times of the year. I am not suggesting that they should be banned, of course, but perhaps not streamed unless sought out actively by the user.

I may like Boney M, but I really have absolutely no interest in listening to a Christmas song from them in the middle of May.

This reminds me of the dance club I used to go to in Budapest when I was in high school. One of the most popular Jive songs at the club was Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree . It was very bizarre to listen to it over and over again in June.

[*] For those who don’t know about Y!M, this is just one of the many ways one can listen to music on this sytem. Yes, I am aware of Pandora,, etc.