Representation: Why is Kentucky…

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Search from Yahoo

The circuit of culture is how to appropriately and completely study a topic and its influence on our way of life. This way of exploring includes consumers who use the product, how it is used, its purpose, the identity of said consumers, the rules enforced over the product, how it is made, and how this all influences the product. The aspect of representation explores what the object signifies depending on who receives it and the relationship between the two. The consumer quickly analyses what the tone, language, and feelings associated with the topic tells them about what it represents.

When you use a search engine to look up certain information there are words that follow the term which are shown below the search bar in hopes to complete your thought. Programming for how a suggested search is generated depends on the search engine. Some of them customize it to the user, their profile, and previous searches or interests. Others go out of their way to make the results neutral to the user to avoid information biases. The suggestions fill in after the key term represents the overall wonder and consensus for most of the users for the search engine. The suggested terms should be common questions or facts which makes it more user friendly and faster to access information.

To explore the way a topic is represented by search engines, I used a few engines and looked up the same phrase to compare the how each of the engines fill in the suggestions. I used the term “Kentucky” because I was born and raised there so I have my own opinions and experiences associated with the term. The specific phrase I used was “why is Kentucky …” and let the search engine fill it in the following words. I found it interesting to compare the world or global perspective of Kentucky to my own views. The results from each search engine revealed to me the different representations of my state to different groups of users and how that shows the algorithms of the search engines.

I used Google, Yahoo, and DuckDuckGo for my research to compare the different algorithms of search engines. The most interesting results were Yahoo because it showed the most diverse suggestions. The top suggestion is “why is Kentucky fried chicken called KFC”, which makes sense because it’s an international brand, most likely appealing to the largest amount of users. The question also does not show a sign of the largest intelligence considering the answer is simply because the name is made into an acronym. This could reflect a lower intelligence for our society and obsession with fast food. There are more internationally known things about Kentucky but because the question about KFC is the top suggestion the user can assume its popularity and how it is valued in society.

Search from DuckDuckGo

The next search result was “why is Kentucky flooding” which is most likely due to the danger and national weather news. This appears on both DuckDuckGo and Yahoo showing similarities in their algorithm. It is common that people are more drawn to bad news: they click on the website, adding to the popularity, and bumping the suggestion higher on the list. On the positive side, this reveals our concern for those involved by wanting to know more about the story and possibly ways to help. Yet, our society has come to rely on bad news and feeds into the social media spiral. The deeper meaning also represents the condition our climate is in which allows for questionable and devastating flooding. The amount of flooding is Kentucky is not typical which is why many users come to question it on the internet. The concern for a natural disaster represents how we are compassionate, users’ attention to bad news, and the concern for why Kentucky should not be flooding.

I think the suggested search for the “why is the Kentucky Derby so important” is a very good representation of Kentucky. The Derby is one of the most famous events in Kentucky and it’s an international competition so it makes sense that a lot of people would search results with that in the name. Horse racing is a staple for the state of Kentucky because of the large number of farms and breeding so the suggestion is accurate. I feel this has a neutral, positive, or negative connotation based on the user’s opinion of horses. I personally have had a very good time at the Derby and riding horses, so I think it’s a positive look for Kentucky. It also corresponds to the suggestion of “why Kentucky is good for horses”, which has a good connotation. As a society, it shows our addiction to gambling, drinking, and adrenaline. There is also a concept of fashion and social exchange during the actual event for those who attend. Others gather in person or online to watch and bet on the races. It also shows an international community which the single Derby race is a part of a three-race championship. The connection between Kentucky and the Derby reflects a positive light of the betting and incredibly large social event representing a large amount of the work force and economy of Kentucky.

Search from Google

I also analyzed the results from the Google search engine, which seemed to have a more negative context. The results such as “why is Kentucky so poor” and “a bad place to live” does not show a positive light for the environment of Kentucky. Considering the idea that all search engines have nonbiased results, then why would different search engines have different suggestions? Some of the suggestions are similar and neutral but there are results which could persuade the user in different directions. “Search engine results also function as a type of personal record and as records of communities, albeit unstable ones” (Noble 2018, 116-117). The suggestions highlights a lot about our society, but the difference in the suggestions on different search engines reveals the instability of the records. There is a bias between search engines due to the user, company, or perceived preference of the society. This influences the perception of the user unknowingly, either confirming their beliefs or changing their thinking to agree with the suggestions. Those who use Google may have a different understanding of Kentucky than those who would use Yahoo. This can become dangerous in the way our society thinks and therefore believes in topics, having a greater impact on our future then just the way we see Kentucky.

Works Cited

Noble, Safiya Umoja. “Searching for People and Communities.” In Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism, 110–18. NYU Press, 2018.

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