A4 Representation: Search Engine Analysis

Assignment 4

Representation: Search Engine Analysis

“Why is the internet so bad,” asks Google. The search engine offers this autosuggestion in a list of other, sometimes grand, questions about the nature, value, and frustrations of the Web. The question comes alongside a reference, as it appears to be, to Nicholas Carr’s influential Atlantic article from 2008 on the internet’s effects on the human mind, “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” It is not difficult to imagine that such value-laden suggestions make impressions on people as they enter search queries, perhaps making them think about things in beneficial ways that they hadn’t before but also perhaps biasing them and clouding the picture they have of a given topic.

As Safiya Umoja Noble shows in Algorithms of Oppression, search results on the internet are anything but neutral, and their impacts are more pointed than would be suggested by diffuse questions of whether the internet is good or bad on the whole. In this assignment you will be asked to analyze a search term of your choosing to consider how search engines represent that topic.


  1. Choose a search term. It can be a single word or a short name or phrase that refers to a cultural object or figure.
  2. Claim your search term in the discussion on Canvas. Your choice should not duplicate the selection of any other student in our class.
  3. Preparation: Perform a series of searches for your term on at least three different search engines, such as Google, Microsoft Bing, DuckDuckGo, Yahoo, Baidu (China), Yandex (Russia), Naver (South Korea), and Ecosia (Germany). Take notes on the autosuggestions (for instance, in the form “why is the _______” or some other phrase that elicits intriguing responses) and the first page of search results.
  4. Circuit of Culture: Analyze your search term with attention to the aspect of representation from the circuit of culture. How do the autosuggestions and search results represent your topic? Do certain search engines represent the topic more favorably than others? What cultural values do the results express?
  5. Quote and cite Safiya Umoja Noble’s Algorithms of Oppression in the body of your post.
  6. Take screenshots of the autosuggestions and first page of results from a search engine of your choice. Include the webpage as your feature image and the autosuggestions as an image in your text. Be careful to follow the image requirements so you don’t end up with an excessively large file.
  7. Provide links to resources where applicable.
  8. Credit images where possible by providing a caption.

Submitting Assignments

All assignments should be submitted as text documents on Canvas and to the blog on the course site. For further instructions on posting to the blog, check out this explainer.

Due October 21 by 5:00 p.m. EST.