Document (#32386)

Author
Peters, B.
Title
¬The search engine democracy : metaphors and Muhammad
Source
Macht der Suchmaschinen: The Power of Search Engines. Hrsg.: Machill, M. u. M. Beiler
Imprint
Köln : Halem
Year
2007
Pages
S.228-242
Abstract
It is remarkable to observe that in the wake of the Muhammad cartoon controversy no one has picketed Google, threatened its employees, or destroyed any of its merchandise. After all, far more people reached the cartoons online than by any other means. Meanwhile almost every other major non-online media source that published the cartoons has faced similar threats of violence. In September 2005 Flemming Rose, the cultural editor of the conservative Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, set a controversy in motion by recruiting over 40 cartoonists to caricature the Prophet Muhammad in response to what he felt was a Danish trend of press self-censorship in covering Islamic issues. From these 40 cartoonists, only 12 cartoons emerged for publication in the 30 September 2005 issue. The initial result was, surprising in retrospect, negligible. The Danish newspaper, known colloquially as the >morning Fascist<, had failed in its attempt to stir up controversy. Three key subsequent events, among others, transformed this failure into controversy and then crisis: first, the republication of the 12 cartoons by a right-wing Norwegian newspaper, followed by February, by hundreds of other newspapers throughout the world; second, the parade of the vicious and misleading 43-page Akkari-Laban dossier of cartoons throughout the Muslim world; and third, the saturation of the Internet (reaching 16% of the world's population) with the Muhammad cartoons. The pandemonium that ensued should be familiar to all: nearly 140 dead; over Boo injured; a potential for more than 10.000 unemployed as a result of political embargoes; dozens of government buildings, Christian churches, and fast food restaurants torched and vandalized; troublesome reprints of the cartoons in major papers on every continent; and millions across the globe left shaken and upset. Some two years later, the riotous repercussions of the cartoons, while dampened, have yet to disappear. In the following pages, I use the Muhammad cartoon controversy as a springboard to think about three key features of our emerging search engine world: one, democracy offers a rich backdrop against which to cast the study of search engines (especially the observation that many of the problems of democracy are also those of search engines); two, the editors' role is in decline by disintermediation - they still shape content but users have new influence in directing distribution; and three, algorithms influence ethics. This chapter also serves as a starting point for thinking about search engine scholarship as well as for the problems and potential treasure chests of insight we may yet find in related studies of communication, journalism, and democracy. Finally, this chapter hopes to invite and provoke its readers to employ a fuller arsenal of tools and metaphors in the critical study of search engines.
Theme
Suchmaschinen
Location
DK

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