The 1st BAIRAL Research Meeting for 2020 Report on “Media Theories on Search Engine Rankings”

Hiroki Kato (B’AI research assistant)

Date: December 18, 2020
Location: Online (Zoom)

On December 18th, 2020, BAIRAL (a study group organized by research assistants of B’AI Global Forum) held its first meeting online. The guest speaker was Atsushi Udagawa, who is a Ph.D. student at the University of Tokyo while also working for the web industry. He gave a brief presentation on his interest and research as a form of self- introduction and this was followed by participants asking questions and discussing related topics.

Mr. Udagawa conducts research on ranking systems of search engines such as Google and critically analyzes their problems. His master’s thesis analyzed discourse on search engines and revealed how Google has established its dominant position in society. As demonstrated in his study, it is important to realize that uncritical trust in search engine rankings has been socially constructed. His research brings an important insight on the current situation where people unsuspectingly trust the search results of Google without paying attention to its ranking algorithm.

In the discussion part, participants actively posed questions and opinions about a variety of issues, such as technical features and possibilities of search engines and social activities to address the problems of online platforms including Google. Regarding social activities, there are many interesting attempts in Europe. One example is “platform cooperativism,” which aims to achieve democratic administration of online platforms and overcome their problems which stem from capitalism. Learning such cases in foreign countries enables us to understand that existing technologies are the products of dynamic interaction between technology and society and we need to critically examine the processes to achieve a fair and safe online environment. Overall, this study session was fruitful and successful since it gave us perspectives to understand the existing difficulties of information technologies and consider how to overcome such problems.