Today, we’ll do a search algorithm exercise that will expose the differences between two search algorithms and their transforms (to use the vocabulary we learned from Ben Schmidt’s essay, “Do Digital Humanists Need to Understand Algorithms?”

  1. In our classroom, search Google for a term or phrase. Anything you want. Take a screenshot of the first page of your results. Then, explore your top 5 results and see what they yield. Note: if you can tell that these search results are NOT safe to open on a campus network (e.g., they point to pornography or something else in the same vein), don’t open them. Just note the result.
  2. Now, pack up your stuff and head to the library. On your laptop or a library terminal, perform the exact same search in the online library catalog. Then go find the top 2 or 3 items the catalog points to (if you only have time to find 1, just find 1). What did you find? How is this result different than your top Google search results?
  3. What can  you infer about the Google search algorithm versus the library search algorithm? Write about the results of this exercise in a short hastac blog post that should be complete before the end of class or the end of the day at the latest. (It need not be long, just thoughtful.)


Credit: Thank you Safiya U. Noble for this assignment idea.


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