DMI Workshop: When Search Becomes Research


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DMI Workshop: When Search Becomes Research

  1. 1. When Search Becomes Research – Part IQuery designAnat Ben-DavidScience, Technology and Society, Bar-Ilan Universityanatbd@gmail.comErik BorraDigital Methods Initiative, University of
  2. 2. When Search Becomes ResearchTurning Google into a research tool“We look at Google search results and see society, instead ofGoogle” (Rogers, Stevenson, Weltevrede 2009)
  3. 3. Words/keywordsWhen words become “issue language”Actors and their terminology: Keywords as positioning effortsNote program, anti-program as well as efforts at net neutrality (Cf.Akrich & Latour, 1992)
  4. 4. Keywords and source sets“side by sidedness” offical / non-official … different kinds of actors(living side by side) in an issue map. (Rogers, 2004)
  5. 5. example:Program / anti-programHow is the issue of “google street view” and privacy is being treated when google-related sites are excluded from the search?1. “Google street view” +privacy 33,100,000 results2. “Google street view” +privacy site:google.* 1,840 results3. “Google street view” +privacy –site:google.* 36,000,000 results
  6. 6. search/researchSearch operators and syntaxUse, for example: +, ~, OR, NOT, SITE:, “”See, for example:
  7. 7. example:Program / anti-programA query design example using advanced operators:• “~Cellular Phone” + “brain tumor” + “not associated”• “~Cellular Phone” + “brain tumor” + “270%”• Compare two queries across different actors. Add “”, “”, .””, etc.
  8. 8. search/researchResearch protocol For using GoogleGoogle Settings:• For the “universal Google” go to or• Log out of your Gmail account• Google preferences: Set interface and search language SafeSearch: Off Google Instant: Off Nr of Results: 100 per page
  9. 9. search/researchResearch protocol For using GoogleClean browser• Log out• Clear cookies and the browser’s search history• Or: create a “research browser” (i.e. install a new one)“Turning off search history personalization”
  10. 10. example:Program / anti-programA query design example using advanced operators:• “~Cellular Phone” + “brain tumor” + “not associated”• “~Cellular Phone” + “brain tumor” + “270%”• Compare two queries across different actors. Add “”, “”, .””, etc.
  11. 11. Example:nationality of issues: Rights typesCan the search engine be repurposed to show which rights are specific per country?Method1. Query the term "rights" in national terminology per different Googlecountry (e.g. ‘droits’ in .fr, ‘rechten’ in .nl)2. Fetch the top 10 unique rights types.3. Visualize top 10 issues per country and mark unique issues.
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  13. 13. search/researchResearch protocolSaving results for verification and retrieval• “Save page as” in the browser, name files and folder consistently• Collect right types in spreadsheet (incl. translation)• Merge results and collect saved files in one place
  14. 14. search/researchQuestions and related toolsUsing Lippmannian Device aka Google scraper:Resonance of controversial terms• What are the relevant issues in the controversy?• Where do controversial terms resonate?
  15. 15. EXAMPLE:CLIMATE CHANGE SKEPTICSWhere do the skeptics get “air time”? Where are their audiences?BBC cancels ‘Planet Relief’ program about environmental issues“The only reason why this became an issue is that there is a small butvociferous group of climate ‘skeptics’ lobbying agains taking action”- BBC News, 5 september 2007
  16. 16. example:climate change skepticsQuery design: What are the sources?Top 100 results for the query “climate change”"climate+change"&num=100
  17. 17. example:climate change skepticsQuery design: What are the issues?Derive list of climate change skepticsSources:,, heartland.orgCompare the three lists and retain the skeptics that are mentioned inat least two of the lists
  18. 18. example:climate change skepticsSkepticsS. Fred SingerRobert BallingSallie BaliunasPatrick MichaelsRichard LindzenSteven MilloyTimothy BallPaul DriessenWillie SoonSherwood B. IdsoFrederick Seitz
  19. 19. example:climate change skepticsGoogle Scraper: Batch query Google sources in the top boxEnter keywords in the bottom box (mind the quotes)Click “scrape Google”
  20. 20. Warning: excessive usage will bring this tool down Make sure to pay attention to query designBody TextBody text
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  31. 31. RecapSteps in methodQuestionQuery designGoogle or Google ScraperTag clouds