I recently convened two workshops for the masters students in the Media and Communications Department at LSE, where I’m a Visiting Fellow.
It was an opportunity to introduce the making methodology to students as part of their toolkit in research practice, and to explore alternative understandings of “Google” than that which Kat and I have devised in the serendipity engine. Kat spoke with them the day before; this put her theory into practice.
Alison Powell and I asked the students two questions:
- What human need does Google fulfill?
- What does Google look like?
We had asked them to bring physical examples of personal data, and we provided a treasure trove of curiosities (well, glue guns, rubber bands, glitter and other ephemera).
This is a summary of their Googles. Here is the Flickr set of their pieces.
Group 1 created a sprawling Google universe with a centralised brain that draws in many inputs to produce outputs. They placed special emphasis on the extent to which Google spreads its economic and political power across all of these things, as well as the boundaries that define its power.
Group 2 considered how Google delivers its results from our personal data - integrating one student’s loyalty cards from local shops to international brands - in conjunction with brand power, interconnections and keywords. Theirs was a very commercial observation of the service.
Group 3 considered the geographical and cultural filters that Google considers/implements/restricts, and how these affect what Google thinks we are looking for (and therefore what it delivers) and how far it is able to reach, globally.
Group 4 represented Google as a man - a happy man - through whom our personal data and our queries are analysed and synthesised, and then redelivered into the various media outputs it delivered.
Group 5 considered Google a way of connecting like-minded individuals through search and discovery, and how new connections - between people - increased the weight of the collective understanding of information, thus making it more likely to be served.
Many many thanks to the students of the Masters course for participating in this experiment and for embracing the task, and to Alison for offering the opportunity to extend my understanding of the making method as research practice.
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