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Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines…

Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism (edition 2018)

by Safiya Umoja Noble (Author)

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Title:Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism
Authors:Safiya Umoja Noble (Author)
Info:NYU Press (2018), Edition: 1, 256 pages
Collections:Your library

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Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism by Safiya Umoja Noble



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Google as a fundamentally oppressive search engine, as expressed by the phrase in the introduction "technological redlining", noting especially Google's mistreatment of black women and girls in search results.

It's a scholarly work (for all of those limits). Readers will also like Bowker and Star's "Sorting Things Out: Classification and Its Consequences" (1999). ( )
  superpatron | Feb 25, 2019 |
Everyone should read this! ( )
  francesanngray | Feb 20, 2019 |
The problem with academic writing about the Internet is that it dates so quickly: unlike a popular nonfiction book, where you're frantically googling while reading to check on what's happened since the book came out, you're frantically googling to check on what's happened in the three years since the chapter you're reading went through peer review. I understand it's necessary, but it's intensely frustrating, especially when a book comes out in the awkward time frame this one did.

Still, there's some very good analysis here, on categorization and assumptions and the way systems that were created thoughtlessly can create and reinforce great harm. There's a lot to build on from here. ( )
  jen.e.moore | Aug 22, 2018 |
Sometimes Google searches can be very funny. For awhile "How do I convert to..." had the .pdf file format as one of the top four results (the other three being the major world religions). People joked that .pdf was now a religion.

And unfortunately Google searching is not always that way. Indeed, "to Google" or "go Google" or similar phrases are common since Google has become synonymous with searching on the internet. Author Noble takes the reader through why and how something like a Google search, even when done with good intentions or to solely seek out information, still reinforces racism.

It brings to light and emphasizes that racism isn't dying out or fading away: as other reviewers note, it simply shows that it has adapted to the internet age. Google was, after all, built by human beings with their own biases and bigotries. It's not necessarily intentional (searches and algorithms can be manipulated but to our knowledge Google does not intentionally push out these results), but it is a problem.

Unfortunately, I have to say that a lot of her points are lost in the writing. I thought the book was terribly written. It's repetitive, sometimes gets lost in academic-speak and sometimes gets off-topic. It was a slog to get through, like it had been hastily edited/re-written for publication.

I do recommend it because it is a very important subject but I'd warn you that it's not an easy read. ( )
  acciolibros | Jul 22, 2018 |
Safiya Umoja Noble’s Algorithms of Oppression is a book I waited for impatiently because I was familiar enough with her research to know it fit my reading interests and was important in my profession. (It jumped into the pages of Inside Higher Ed when a hasty Twitter questioning of the book's validity by a major tech organization’s official Twitter account based on nothing more than a quick glance at a publisher’s description led to a backlash. And many comments here at IHE, of course.) It’s the culmination of years of studying the ways algorithmic information systems – Google Algorithms of Oppression coverSearch in particular – represent people who are not white and not male. She noticed years ago, when shopping for her nieces, that black girls looking themselves up, would see lots of porn because that’s what Google thought you must be looking for. After she published an article about it, those search results changed. There’s no way of knowing what prompted the change, but every so often, when Google is called out for search results that are surprising – denial sites, for example, topping the list of results when searching for information about the Holocaust – they make some tweaks. This is not a systematic overhaul of how the algorithm works, it’s PR and brand protection, with a side of “oh heck, we didn’t expect that to happen.”

Noble unpacks the trouble with corporations that have no public accountability except to shareholders dominating our information landscape and, in particular, how problematic their systems are for women and people of color. The design of our most dominant information gateway poaches unpaid labor, imagines the world to be just like those who write the code to sell attention and adds, and gives us back a reflection of ourselves that is warped by not jumbling information together without context. Its dominance means journalists now have to make their stories more sensational to be found in the din, and that whole communities lose their connections as their own histories are crowded out. (There’s an excellent interview that shows how Yelp has affected one black woman’s business and how the system we may use casually to check out options actually demands constant payments from businesses to make their online profiles more visible while making networks of word-of-mouth less vital.)

This is a book librarians and anyone else who worries about the state of our information systems should check out. I’ll share a few of the many quotes I noted down to give you some flavor.

Algorithmic oppression is not just a glitch in the system but, rather, is fundamental to the operating system of the web (10).

Google’s enviable position as the monopoly leader in the provision of information has allowed its organization of information and customization to be driven by its economic imperatives and has influenced broad swathes of society to see it as the creator and keeper of information culture online, which I am arguing is another form of American imperialism that manifests itself as ‘gatekeeper’ on the web (86).

Algorithms are, and will continue to be, loaded with power (171).

Though in an epilogue, written after Trump’s election, Noble admits her solutions – strengthening the social institutions that are unlikely to get anything but decreased budgets and creating public options - aren't in the cards, she believes we need to change our information systems fundamentally.

Without public funding and adequate information policy that protects the rights to fair representation online, an escalation in the erosion of quality information to inform the public will continue . . . My hope is that the public will reclaim its institutions and direct our resources in service of a multiracial democracy. Now, more than ever, we need libraries, universities, schools, and information resources that will help bolster and further expand democracy for all, rather than shrink the landscape of participation along racial, religious, and gendered lines" (181, 186).
  bfister | May 28, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
In her book, Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism, which was published by New York University Press this month, Noble delves into the ways search engines misrepresent a variety of people, concepts, types of information and knowledge. Her aim: to get people thinking and talking about the prominent role technology plays in shaping our lives and our future.

added by superpatron | editUSC Annenberg (Feb 16, 2018)
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"In Algorithms of Oppression, Safiya Umoja Noble challenges the idea that search engines like Google offer an equal playing field for all forms of ideas, identities, and activities. Data discrimination is a real social problem. Noble argues that the combination of private interests in promoting certain sites, along with the monopoly status of a relatively small number of Internet search engines, leads to a biased set of search algorithms that privilege whiteness and discriminate against people of color, especially women of color. Through an analysis of textual and media searches as well as extensive research on paid online advertising, Noble exposes a culture of racism and sexism in the way discoverability is created online. As search engines and their related companies grow in importance--operating as a source for email, a major vehicle for primary and secondary school learning, and beyond--understanding and reversing these disquieting trends and discriminatory practices are of utmost importance."--Page 4 of cover.… (more)

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