Society of the Query is an invitation to join the (research) network; a series of events, reader, workshops, online debates, campaigns etc.
Geert Lovink and Shirley Niemans (Society of the Query #1 Amsterdam)
Geert Lovink and René König (Society of the Query #2 Amsterdam)
Search engines such as Google or Bing determine which part of the web we get to see. In contrast to the early internet age which was often navigated through “surfing” – rather serendipitous and sometimes random browsing – targeted queries are now supposed to lead us to exactly what we want to know. Within only a few years, this practice has become so entangled in our daily routines, that we rarely question it. But the apparently simple practice of internet search evokes a number of critical questions and concerns: What information is represented in search engines and how do algorithms decide over its visibility? Which larger societal and cultural consequences are triggered by the wide usage of search technology? Especially in Europe, where web search is almost equated with googling (in many countries Google reaches a stable market share around 90%), we must also reflect on the dominance of one single commercial company in this important sector.
In 2009, the conference Society of the Query has tackled a number of these questions. While this has contributed to a better understanding of the impact of search engines, many open questions remain and the dynamics in this field have led to new ones: How does the rise of the social web affect search engines and the practices around them? Which consequences do innovations like personalization, localization or autocomplete have? How can we re-think the established search routines? A follow-up conference of Society of the Query will address these and related questions. The aim is not only to open up new perspectives by bringing together scholars from different relevant disciplines (e.g. information science, sociology, media and communication) but also to increase the public’s awareness and knowledge about the societal and cultural implications of web search. This will include artistic approaches which may help us to question this highly-routinized practice. This conference will connect not only to the first Society of the Query in 2009, but also to related events namely Quaero Forum in Maastricht (2007), Deep Search I (2008) and II (2010) and Black Box Suchmaschine (2012, in German) in Vienna. Moreover, there is an ongoing discourse on a collaborative research blog (http://networkcultures.org/re-search) and a mailing list (http://listcultures.org/mailman/listinfo/re-search_listcultures.org).