jump to search:/  select search:K  navigate results:/  navigate suggestions:/  close suggestions:esc

    Search quality complaints and imaginary repair: Control in articulations of Google Search

    November 25th, 2022


    Griffin, D.*, & Lurie, E.* (2022). Search quality complaints and imaginary repair: Control in articulations of Google Search. New Media & Society, Ahead of Print. https://doi.org/10.1177/14614448221136505 [direct PDF link]

    * equal co-authors



    In early 2017, a journalist and search engine expert wrote about “Google’s biggest ever search quality crisis.” Months later, Google hired him as the first Google “Search Liaison” (GSL). By October 2021, when someone posted to Twitter a screenshot of misleading Google Search results for “had a seizure now what,” users tagged the Twitter account of the GSL in reply. The GSL frequently publicly interacts with people who complain about Google Search on Twitter. This article asks: what functions does the GSL serve for Google? We code and analyze 6-months of GSL responses to complaints on Twitter. We find that the three functions of the GSL are: (1) to naturalize the logic undergirding Google Search by defending how it works, (2) perform repair in responses to complaints, and (3) boundary drawing to control critique. This advances our understanding of how dominant technology companies respond to critiques and resist counter-imaginaries.


    As documented in the paper:

    The authors thank the many who reviewed and provided comments, including Deirdre Mulligan, Anne Jonas, Elizabeth Resor, Richmond Wong, and participants in both the Data & Society The Social Life of Algorithmic Harms Workshop and the UC Berkeley School of Information Doctoral Research and Theory Workshop.


    Emma Lurie and I began discussing this paper in late 2021. We submitted and presented an initial draft at a Data & Society workshop in early 2022: The Social Life of Algorithmic Harms.