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    tags: diss
    December 16th, 2022

    I would like to thank my committee for their support throughout this process and for seeing me through to the finish. Thank you to Deirdre Mulligan for inviting me to look at web search back in 2016. Now I cannot stop looking. I am extremely grateful for your support for my curiosity and for your example of how to do research that impacts society and mentor new scholars to do the same. I deeply appreciate you reading through so many rough drafts, engaging with my ideas in their formative stages, and for showing me I could do better. Thank you, Deirdre, for shepherding me over the finish line. Thank you to Steve Weber for so many rich conversations as I started my PhD and for helping me formulate my questions and consider why they matter. I still regularly go back to meeting notes from years ago. Thank you Jenna Burrell for your guidance in methods, especially for letting me participate in the Twitter paper research, and for your constant enthusiastic encouragement. Thank you Marion Fourcade for joining me on this journey. Thank you for your close attention and for the many suggestions to connect with the literature, both the old and brand new.

    Thank you to my research participants who willingly talked so much about this thing that people are hesitant to talk about. Please consider this dissertation an offer to talk again. Thank you also to the many friends and classmates who helped connect me with people to talk to.

    I’m grateful for the feedback and support over the years in the Doctoral Research and Theory Workshop. I received feedback in 2019 on an initial sketch of this research in a prototype idea session and then later a draft proposal at (which at the time I called “Shaping the shop floor: characterizing coder (re)search labor within cognitive assemblages”)1. Thanks to Coye Cheshire for showing us how to practice with care to our work and care for each other.

    Thank you to Jake Goldenfein for keeping our paper going across the years and around the world, and thank you Sebastian Benthall for connecting us (and for our conversations).

    Special credit for so much of this research and my development as a researcher goes to Anne Jonas, Richmond Wong, Elizabeth Resor, and Emma Lurie. You’ve helped me think through and write through so many questions and dilemmas, across Slack, Zoom, and Twitter direct messages. The requests for help with a search or a citation were always met with more than just an answer, but connection and support. Thank you Anne and Elizabeth for the weekly calls. I’m glad they will continue. Thank you Richmond for always appreciating my speculations and for helping me explore new literatures. Thank you Emma for taking a chance on the side project, it was incredibly enriching to work with you and generative for this dissertation.

    Thank you to the rest of the folks at the School of Information who have made this adventure so rewarding. Thank you to the other faculty members. Thank you to Anno Saxenian for your example of scholarship and service. I’m grateful for Marti Hearst’s foundational work on web search. Particularly grateful to Paul Duguid for his deep engagement with scholarship and all of us students, particularly his mentorship in Classics and such supportive feedback on papers and chapters. His published work was also always a constant guide and inspiration.2Thank you Bob Glushko for all your personal encouragement. A big thank you to the staff at the School of Information, especially Catherine Cronquist Browning, Inessa Gelfenboym Lee, Kevin Heard, Gary Lum, and Jonathan Henke. Thank you Caitlin Appert for the retweets. I’m grateful for the chance to participate in the Center for Long-Term Cybersecurity, the Algorithmic Fairness and Opacity Group, and the Center for Technology, Society & Policy.

    I’ve been at the school too long to name everyone who has played a role in shaping my journey and this research but I’m so grateful for the community, and particularly the reflexive and intentional approach of the PhD students who came before and have come after. Thank you to Nick Doty for his constant example. Thank you also to Galen Panger, Noura Howell, Elaine Sedenberg, Jen King, Nick Merrill, Sarah Van Wart, and Andy Brooks for showing the way. Thank you to the cohort ahead of me for your friendship and your example of mutual support—Anne Jonas, Max Curran, and Shazeda Ahmed. Thank you Andrew Chong, Jon Gillick, Nitin Kohli, Guanghua Chi, Jeremy Gordon, Zoe Kahn, Doris Lee, Ji Su Yoo, and Sijia Xiao for the conversations and companionship. (Thank you to Mike Berger for conversations over runs that encouraged me to see myself applying to the PhD program.) Thank you also to the many other students and classmates over the last several years who I cannot wait to thank in person, especially to Vijay, Andy, Nikhil, and Anand.

    I must also thank the National Science Foundation for supporting Grant #1650589 which funded some of my studies, along with the GI Bill (which I will take this opportunity to note was racist in design and effects (Katznelson, 2005)).

    As you will see in the dissertation itself, searching and asking questions is a massively collaborative project, with much collaboration of the sort that sadly escapes notice. I cannot possibly name all those scholars I’ve interacted with on social media and who have been so welcoming. I’m so thankful for the interactions with and examples set by Safiya Noble, Francesca Tripodi, and Jutta Haider. Online and off, I’m grateful to the many people who have provided search terms, provided the inspiration and impetus to search, asked why these questions mattered, and helped evaluate what I was finding from my own searches. I’m sure I am forgetting others who deserve credit. I must take the blame, though I hope you’ll take away something about blame from this dissertation.

    Thank you to my friends and family for your constant encouragement and for entertaining my constant questions about how you searched the web. Thank you Andrew Reifers for being there and for talking with me about my fascination with search. Thank you Rhonda Griffin for showing a willingness to ask questions and always supporting my curiosity.

    Most of all, I’d like to thank Emily Witt for such tremendous support. This would not have been possible without your help. Encouraging me and talking me through every stage of this research, teaching me so much about how to ask questions and listen, and always a model of a thoughtful champion of careful purposeful research and our shared responsibilities. You shaped my questions and conclusions. Thank you for all the proofreading and brainstorming these last several weeks. And thank you for taking over more than your share of bath times, bed times, diaper times, and dishes these last few months. You inspire me and make me better. Thank you Wilder for your curiosity and Otis for joining me in the baby carrier for late night writing sessions.


    Elish, M. C., & Watkins, E. A. (2019).Algorithms on the shop floor: Data-driven technologies in organizational context. https://datasociety.net/library/algorithms-on-the-shop-floor/

    Katznelson, I. (2005).When affirmative action was white: An untold history of racial inequality in twentieth-century america. W.W. Norton & Company.

    Lave, J., & Wenger, E. (1991).Situated learning: Legitimate peripheral participation. Cambridge university press. https://www.cambridge.org/highereducation/books/situated-learning/6915ABD21C8E4619F750A4D4ACA616CD#overview

    1. I had directed the proposal towards a call for papers for Data & Society’s Algorithms on the Shop Floor Workshop (Elish & Watkins, 2019). I was not selected as a research participant—sharing this as praxis—but am grateful for how the call shaped my research and for the papers workshopped that I have cited below. ↩︎

    2. I cannot help but note Paul’s name in the Acknowledgements of Lave & Wenger (1991)—“that rare colleague whose editorial involvement became akin to coauthorship” (p. 26)—, a central building block for this dissertation. ↩︎