Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Web Is Keeping Us Closed Minded!

I use Google every single day. Although I have begun to use academic search engines, like JSTOR, now that my classes call for research, Google remains my trustee aid when navigating the internet. I always thought that when I searched a term, the million or so results I got back were completely random and only appeared because of matching terms. Thanks to Chris Nolan, I now know that I was so wrong! in fact, not only does Google customize results based upon my previous searches, it also customizes them based on where I am. This tool does prove useful when I search "Spurs," for example, and my server knows I am in San Antonio. However, I run into a dilemma when my searches become more serious.
Being a political science major, I find it rather disturbing that Google, Facebook, and the like can alter your search results and news feed based on what you've clicked on before. Say I usually tend to research conservative members of our government because I agree ideologically with them and want to see what they are up to. Well, come election time, if I search for information on the candidates I may only see Right-leaning blogs and opinion pieces instead of well rounded, unbiased information. This may seem like a small problem but when no body has their views challenged, we become a very closed minded society. Not only do we see things that are personalized just for us, but we don't see what's not just for us. That is where I see a problem.
Nolan did teach me some wonderful things about Google, too. For instance, he showed us how to turn off the personalization settings and reminded me that deleting all the cookies my computer stores will also help reset my computer. Furthermore, I was so pleased to learn more ways to narrow the results for a search. If you type in 'site: gov' then Google will only return .gov websites! Also, Nolan reminded me that the most popular items usually appear near the top, not always the most scholarly. If I want to make sure a website is legitimate, I need to look for an author, publisher, the intended audience, objectivity, substantiation of claims, and recency of information. With all the research I have to do here at Trinity, these tips are sure to save me time and help me get more relevant results, too!

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