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The Anti-Googlization: How Alternative Search Engines Find Their Way on the Web

October 12, 2009


On the website googlizationofeverything.com, theorist Siva Vaidhyanathan states that the current web is dominated in several ways by search engine Google. Google related sites and ‘Googleware’ like Google Books and Google Earth and the video channel YouTube. In a lot of countries, Google is by far the most used search engine; in the Netherlands, Google controls even more than 95 percent of the Web search market. Because of this leading position of Google and the fact that a lot of internet users take the search engine as their primer source for finding online information, questions about the power of Google as a search engine can be asked. Google has several ways to determine which search results show up when one’s typing a search term, but who says these results are actually in the right order? And off course, what is the ‘right’ order here? Theorist Pierre Lévy states that the web can be seen as the ultimate example of collective intelligence, because: “No one know everything, everyone knows something, all knowledge resides in humanity”(1). Thus, not only can people use the internet for their own purposes, but they also shape it when making websites or add content to existing ones. The search results given by Google are a reflection of these inputs, and can thus be seen as a reflection of collective knowledge. People using Google also take for granted that Google is still functioning in such a way, that it can be trusted as being an apparatus reflecting collective knowledge. But since Google uses adverts and became more commercialized, this idea isn’t that natural anymore.

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Twitter and The Remediation of Short Texts

October 5, 2009

Aphorisms, Haiku’s, SMS, Twitter


“What are you doing?” This basic question of Twitter can easily be answered in the limited 140 characters a ‘tweet offers. They key characteristic of the famous microblogging site, it’s short message length, actually isn’t really new. The history of the use of short texts goes way back; an early example of it can be found in the so-called aphorisms, short thoughts on life, often stated by philosophers. Examples of it are “All men by nature desire to know” by Aristotle and “All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking” by Nietzsche. But also McLuhan’s statement “I don’t necessarily agree with everything I say” can be seen as a more current – and maybe funnier – example of an aphorism. Another concept of the use of short text, with its origins in Japanese society, is the haiku. This short poem consists of 17 moras in three phrases. There are several famous Japanese haiku writers, but also haiku’s in English and other languages can be found. Whereas aphorisms have a more philosophical nature, haiku’s can be seen as an art form. Then SMS is the well-known and broadly used example of short text nowadays. The short messages consisting of 160 characters (or more when one types a longer message) differ from the aphorisms and haiku’s in interactivity. Whereas the two latter aren’t really interactive since they are the product of one person and meant to express philosophical ideas or artistic feelings, SMS can only exist and give meaning if two persons are involved in its communication of sending and receiving.

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Yunomi: Advertising and Social Networking Sites

September 27, 2009

YunomiIn the Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant, of Saturday September 26th, there was an article on a new Dutch website: Yunomi. This website is stated to be a ‘platform’ for women, with articles about fashion, beauty and lifestyle. Visitors of Yunomi cannot only read these articles, but also participate by writing articles themselves and communicating with other users. Even though the site doesn’t have a lay-out really similar to that of Social Networking Sites (SNSs) such as Hyves or Facebook, Yunomi can somehow be seen as such as site. There is the possibility to create your own user profile, become friends with other members and stay in touch with them by following what they write on the site or by sending messages to them. According to Boyd and Ellison, these three possibilities are characteristics of a social networking site. In its kind, Yunomi even seems to be an interesting SNS since it aims at women only and isn’t as general as, for example, Hyves.

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The Bold Sisters of Wikipedia

September 20, 2009

Even though the site Wikipedia itself is the most known project of the Wikimedia foundation, there are several sister projects that are interesting and worth of researching. There is, for example, the Wiktionary, which is, quite obviously, a dictionary, but also less common projects like Wikispecies, a ‘free directory of life’ that aims to describe all sorts of life on earth, and Wikisource, a place where publications can be found such as Barack Obama’s Health Care Speech.

A nice Wikipedia Birthday Cake

But does the Wikipedia user have any idea of these sites, which in fact can be seen as extensions of the Wikipedia encyclopedia? I doubt it. I doubt it for I hadn’t mentioned such a Wikipedia sister project myself, when I was attempting to add some new information to Wikipedia.

I had my glorious ‘Wow, I can add some new info to Wiki’-moment when I looked up the entry on ‘chocolate cake’. There was a description of the history of the cake and several cake types, but I could not find a real recipe for it. So I wrote one myself and added it to the site.

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Smoothly Skating Through Amsterdam

September 16, 2009

One of the things I love to do sometimes is skating. Now since my boyfriend likes to skeeler as well and has for years been ice skating on a high level, he’s determined to show me all the tips & tricks to become as fast as possible on the asphalt… Such a pity it is then, that sometimes the street isn’t as skater-proof as you would wish it to be. Holes in the road, tree roots buckling through the sidewalk or those tiny, paving stones… how I would love to skate those smooth main roads sometimes! Well, this upcoming Sunday is going to be my day :). September 20th is Car Free Sunday in Amsterdam, and therefore the perfect possibility to hit those big streets on your skates. Or offcourse do other things, like cycling next to the cycle path or somersault in the middle of the road ;). Besides that, there are also a lot of activities organized, like a creative Sunday market with a lot of artists participating. I would say: have a nice and above all smooooth Sunday!

Review of Digital Material: Tracing New Media in Everyday Life and Technology

September 10, 2009

Im/material – In-material

Les Immatériaux is the name of the exposition the well-known theorist Jean-François Lyotard held in the Centre Pompidou in Paris, in 1985. At the exhibition, a digital interactive catalog, written by several writers, was shown. This experimental encounter with the computer was one of the first pieces of collaborative electronic writing, and showed the optimistic view of Lyotard and his co-authors upon a future without material objects: an immaterial world. Computer and other digital technologies would be the tools to establish this dream, so Lyotard amongst others mused.

Digital Material

The ideology of Lyotard is not shared by the authors of Digital Material: tracing new media in everyday life and technology.

The authors even state that the title of the exhibition, in plural form, already undermines Lyotard’s idea because ‘Les Immatériaux’ refer not to one abstract thing, but to several things, or parts, of something that so becomes an inseparable part of the material world in itself. The focus of the authors of this book is then not on this ‘myth of the immaterial’ exclusively, but rather on a mix of the immaterial and material aspects of (new) media. Their view at new media is modern and interesting, because they no longer hurray the new media ‘out there’ but state that new media nowadays are actually ‘here and amongst us’, and thus ready to be criticized.

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Children and Hyves

September 6, 2009
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The most popular social networking website in the Netherlands is Hyves. It’s similar to Facebook or MSN Spaces, but far more used in Holland: since it’s founding in 2004, the number of users has grown explosively and today Hyves has more than 8.9 million accounts. That’s more than half of all Dutch inhabitants!

Hyves is used by many people, even famous Dutch persons like musicians and television actors. Even the Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende has an account, at this moment he has 190.803 “Hyves-friends”.

Hyves has several user possibilities. As a member, you can place pictures or video clips, send a message to friends (that’s called “krabbelen”) or write a blog. A lot of companies use the networking site as well, to advertise, because they can easily unravel which users are part of their target groups, by checking out the Hyves accounts. For a subject of my studies, I wrote a short paper on the social use of Hyves by children. Children actually grow up in the “online decade” and may use Hyves in a very different way than someone who’s twenty or thirty, or older. You can download the article here (PDF).