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A Companion to New Media Dynamics by Axel Bruns, Jean Burgess, John Hartley

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Chapter 16

Against Search

Toward A New Computational Logic of Media Accessibility

Pelle Snickars

Let's start off with one of the most compelling questions of our time: what does it mean to be human in the digital age? Well, one overwhelming challenge facing us all is having digital access to more information, data, and knowledge than any previous generation of humankind. A burden perhaps—at least for some. But, for the majority of us, this is a blessing. The often-invoked libertarian information-wants-to-be-free paradigm does not only require free flow of data. All these bits and bytes in the digital domain have to be organized and found, which, needless to say, is the underlying rationale for the most successful web behemoth of all. Suffice it to say, screens are ubiquitous and giving computers (and their mobile clones) textual and haptic commands has become normality. Access to whatever we want literally lies at our fingertips; information is there somewhere waiting, with the only question being where to look. So, you search.

Ever since Google introduced its clean, white search box interface in the late 1990s—the Internet Archive crawled the site for the first time in mid-November 1998—the blank frame has been waiting for input.1 During the past decade, this peculiar type of white box has become the new search default, especially within the information retrieval sector par excellence at archives, libraries, and museums. “Search the Collections,” is the standard phrase awaiting ...

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