01.04.2011

HOW GOOGLE DECIDES WHAT WE SEE - DIGITAL METHOD RESEARCH

Google’s mantra is ‘to give you exactly the information you want right when you want it’. They operationalise this by providing ‘personalised’ search results and recommendations. Since the end of 2009, Google started personalising search results for everyone, whether logged in or not.

In our research project we wanted to better understand how much we should trust Google's personalised search results and how useful they might be. We developed a digital method and produced some surprising and annoying insights.

Our findings demonstrate, that at the moment personalisation is both taking place to a surprising extent, but with relatively trivial results. Most likely this reflects the fact that we are in the early stages of the process and that, at least, some of the benefits of personalisation will not accrue on the side of the end-user, but on the side of the advertisers and thus Google itself, which sells these personalised audiences.
Furthermore, we have produced first evidence that Google is actively matching people to groups, which are produced statistically, thus giving people not only the results they want (based in what Google knows about them for a fact), but also generates results that Google thinks might be good to users (or advertisers) thus more or less subtly pushing users to see the world according to criteria pre-defined by Google.

Download paper here

Read articles about this research

See also this paper at First Monday.

Visualisation of a dataset by Mauritius Seeger, image by Monya Pletsch
VISUALISATION OF A DATASET BY MAURITIUS SEEGER, IMAGE BY MONYA PLETSCH
 
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