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THE EXTERNALITIES OF SEARCH 2.0: THE FLOW OF PERSONAL INFORMATION IN THE DRIVE FOR THE PERFECT SEARCH ENGINE

Michael Zimmer

(Submission #19)


Summary

The rhetoric surrounding Web 2.0 infrastructures presents certain cultural claims about media, identity, and technology. It suggests that everyone can and should use new Internet technologies to organize and share information, to interact within communities, and to express oneself. It promises to empower creativity, to democratize media production, and to celebrate the individual while also relishing the power of collaboration and social networks. Websites such as Flickr, Wikipedia, del.icio.us, MySpace, and YouTube are all part of this second-generation Internet phenomenon, which has spurred a variety of new services and communities – and venture capitalist dollars. But Web 2.0 also embodies a set of unintended consequences emerging from the resultant blurring of the boundaries between Web users and producers, consumption and participation, authority and amateurism, play and work, data and the network, reality and virtuality.

The focus of this paper is the unintended consequence of the increased flow of personal information across Web 2.0 infrastructures, and in particular, the efforts by web search engines to crawl and aggregate this data in order to build profiles, predict intentions, and deliver personalized products and services. This drive the perfect search engine through the capture of personal information flowing across the networks – the quest for Search 2.0 – brings with it particular value externalities, such as the privacy of individuals’ online intellectual activities. This paper argues that the externalities of Search 2.0 represent a new and powerful “infrastructure of dataveillance,” whose “methodical, technology-driven, [and] impersonal” panoptic gaze is quickly becoming “a primary mechanism of surveillance and, by extension, social control in our society” (Staples, 2000, p. 5).

  


  
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