[Air-l] Looking for good search-engine literature

Michael Zimmer michael.zimmer at nyu.edu
Tue May 16 04:04:47 PDT 2006


Ben - I agree with everything Elizabeth has said - let us know the  
focus of your research questions (ethics, ontology, epistemology,  
law, IR, etc), and we can help point you to resources.

Also, rather than being a problem, you can also look at search  
engines as "freeing one from the arbitrariness and fixity of the  
library card catalog" - that's a longer conversation we can have.

-michael.
ps - I'm at NYU - if you want to meet for coffee to discuss, just  
holler.


On May 16, 2006, at 3:16 AM, Elizabeth Van Couvering wrote:

> Hi Ben,
>
> Search engines are the topic of my doctoral dissertation.  I would
> say that what kind of literature you find depends on what your
> question is; however, there is quite a bit of literature out there.
> Most of it is from an information retrieval (ie computer science)
> point of view, dicussing algorithms, indexing, and other technical
> topics.  Some is from a user-interface point of view, testing the
> efficacy of different systems.  A much smaller literature considers
> it from a social science point of view - people who are working (or
> have recently been working) in this area include Marcel Machill in
> Germany, Eszter Hargittai, Matt Hindman, Eric Goldman, Michael
> Zimmer, Concetta Stewart and Gisela Gil-Egui.  Eszter is editing an
> issue of the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication on the topic
> and Michael and Amanda Spink (who does large-scale user studies of
> search queries) are doing a book.  Marcel has also organised a
> conference in Germany at the end of June on the topic.  So things are
> happening that you can tap into.
>
> I highly recommend putting the term "search engine" into the ISI Web
> of Knowledge and downloading all the abstracts that come up if you
> want to make sense of the field as a whole.  If you can define your
> topic a little more, I can give you specific references. Let me know.
>
> Regarding your questions.  Library of material with no catalogue - if
> you are interested in the results you'll want to check out the
> statistical modelling and large-scale user tests which evaluate
> search engines.  Self-reflection - I agree but it is possible to use
> alternative systems to access the academic literature, and if you are
> attempting a technical study then you will establish some kind of
> reference collection.  Don't let it get you down.  Posterity - well,
> although some things change, some stay the same.  I just finished a
> draft chapter on search engine history which is definitely not ready
> for prime time, but might be worth a read if you're struggling to
> make sense of things.  Several other chapters are available on my
> personal web site: http://personal.lse.ac.uk/vancouve/, and they all
> have bibliographies.
>
> Hope this is helpful, feel free to email me off-list.
>
> Elizabeth
>
>
> On 16 May 2006, at 07:24, Ben Peters wrote:
>
>> Hi,
>>
>> I'm Ben Peters, a doctoral student at Columbia struggling with how
>> to study
>> search-engines. There's the problem of plenty: searching search-
>> engines
>> produces a library of material with no card catalog. There's the
>> problem of
>> self-reflection: studying search-engines through search-engines
>> makes one
>> pause to consider. Must one remove herself from the medium in order
>> to study
>> it (and other second-order issues)? But how else can one study a
>> subject so
>> young, except by using it to study itself? And there's the problem of
>> posterity: search-engines seem to be evolving so quickly, with the
>> web they
>> index, that one struggles to step back from detailing a close
>> search-engine
>> genealogy to view the larger historical role search-engines may be
>> having
>> upon society. The species of search-engines is as important as their
>> specifics manifestations.
>>
>> Plus I'm sure there's at least a billion other problems I haven't
>> happened
>> upon yet.
>>
>> Anyway, I've got a month to devote to this topic right now. Someone
>> throw me
>> an anchor, please: citations to institutions, people, books,  
>> articles,
>> sites, or any related discussion would be hugely appreciated.
>>
>> Pleasantly perplexed,
>>
>> Ben
>>
>> bjpeters [at] gmail.com
>> bjp2108 [at] columbia.edu
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>
> Elizabeth Van Couvering
> PhD Student
> Department of Media & Communications
> London School of Economics and Political Science
> http://personal.lse.ac.uk/vancouve/
> e.j.van-couvering at lse.ac.uk
>
>
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