5 Nov 2015
4:00 pm - 5:30 pm
470 Stephens Hall
Assistant Professor of Science and Technology Studies; Cornell University
Algorithms have developed into somewhat of a modern myth. The subject of media reports, research projects, and congressional hearings, they are increasingly portrayed as powerful yet inscrutable entities that govern, sort, shape, or otherwise control our lives. But what if their operations are not as straightforward as expected? What if it turns out that there isn’t much to hide? This talk will explore these questions through an ethnography of search engine optimization (SEO) consultants – a growing industry of marketing professionals that help their clients rank in search engine results pages. Moving back and forth between spreadsheets, software tools, client meetings, industry conferences, and online conversations, I shall explore the everyday practices of secrecy, publicity, and experimentation that make the engine work. What is often portrayed as a technical tool for ordering and evaluating information turns out to drive a mode of ordering based on ambiguous analytics, continuous provocation, and a self-perpetuating ‘need to know’.
Media Credits: Search Engine Land, Third Door Media, http://searchengineland.com/seotable
Additional sponsorship comes from: Berkeley Program in Science and Technology Studies BIDS Office for the History of Science and Technology School of Information