CSE 590 SO
Society and Technology
Spring 2006: Social Ramifications of Search Technologies

Tue 12:30-1:20, CSE 403

The bulk of information about this course currently resides at the 590t wiki; consult there for up-to-date details.

Course description: As the cliché goes, in today's "information society" there is no shortage of information, but rather an inability to process information in meaningful ways. The primary contemporary response to this information inundation has been the Search. As a consequence, the search engine has become one of the most important transformative social institutions of our time.

Because the heart of search is a mechanical ordering of results by relevance to a query, search algorithms are a new way of judging quality. This extends perhaps most importantly to the ranking of the quality of cultural content, something which in the past has been a human task. What does this mean for the distribution of power in society? How might the search algorithms themselves open up new avenues of political participation and expression? How might they work toward social exclusion?