Data & Society > our work > academic journal > Algorithmically recognizable: Santorum’s Google problem, and Google’s Santorum problem

Taylor & Francis Online | 07.12.16

Algorithmically recognizable: Santorum’s Google problem, and Google’s Santorum problem

Tarleton Gillespie

D&S advisor Tarleton Gillespie writes “Algorithmically recognizable: Santorum’s Google problem, and Google’s Santorum problem”. Abstract is below:

Because information algorithms make judgments that can have powerful consequences, those interested in having their information selected will orient themselves toward these algorithmic systems, making themselves algorithmically recognizable, in the hopes that they will be amplified by them. Examining this interplay, between information intermediaries and those trying to be seen by them, connects the study of algorithmic systems to long-standing concerns about the power of intermediaries – not an algorithmic power, uniquely, but the power to grant visibility and certify meaning, and the challenge of discerning who to grant it to and why. Here, I consider Dan Savage’s attempt to redefine the name of U.S. Senator Rick Santorum, a tactical intervention that topped Google’s search results for nearly a decade, and then mysteriously dropped during the 2012 Republican nominations. Changes made to Google’s algorithm at the time may explain the drop; here, they help to reveal the kind of implicitly political distinctions search engines must invariably make, between genuine patterns of participation and tactical efforts to approximate them.

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