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Title: Searching for black girls: old traditions in new media
Author(s): Noble, Safiya
Director of Research: Smith, Linda C.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s): Smith, Linda C.
Doctoral Committee Member(s): Tettegah, Sharon Y.; Fouché, Rayvon; Estabrook, Leigh S.
Department / Program: Library & Information Science
Discipline: Library & Information Science
Degree Granting Institution: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Degree: Ph.D.
Genre: Dissertation
Subject(s): digital media
Google
search engines
representation
race
gender
stereotypes
bias
Abstract: Critical information scholars continue to demonstrate how technology and its narratives are shaped by and infused with values, that is, that it is not the result of the actions of impartial, disembodied, unpositioned agents. Technology consists of a set of social practices, situated within the dynamics of race, gender, class, and politics. Critiques of technology include the rhetoric around the digital divide, as if access, skills and connectivity are the primary issues, as well as critiques of the alleged neutrality of technology. These critiques, however, largely serve to depoliticize the ways that social systems of power are embedded in technology practices. The present study addresses the issue of Internet search, a seemingly neutral and non-politicized technology, to look deeply at how Google mediates access to information on racialized and gendered identities in biased ways. Situated within critical race studies and critical information studies, from a Black feminist perspective, my research shows that Google's search engine monopoly privileges problematic race and gender representations of Black women and girls, from the very first page of search results. Through content and critical discourse analysis, I explore the ways that race and gender are structured in the Google commercial search engine and how the results from keyword searches on terms like "Black girls" are symbolic, harmful, and familiar misrepresentations derived from traditional mass media and popular culture. This research also traces how gender and race are socially constructed and mutually constituted through library and information science traditions from which current web indexing systems are derived, with a specific focus on how "neutral" technologies foster dominant narratives that may reinforce oppressive social relations, particularly the pornification of Black women and girls.
Issue Date: 2012-12
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/2142/42315
Rights Information: Copyright 2012 Safiya Noble
Date Available in IDEALS: 2013-02-03
Date Deposited: 2012-12


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