(Re)search results: Search engines and the logic of efficiency in scholarship

Sutherland, Thomas and Wark, Scott. 2024. (Re)search results: Search engines and the logic of efficiency in scholarship. Distinktion: Journal of Social Theory, ISSN 1600-910X [Article] (In Press)

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Abstract or Description

This article uses the search engine as a heuristic for reflecting upon the extent to which knowledge production within the academy both shapes and is shaped by the media that it studies and with which its research is enabled. More specifically, it argues that the efficiency that has helped make search both a paradigmatic feature of digital culture and a habitual, everyday activity is achieved not just through speediness of results, but through a rationalized, regimented, and standardized structuration of knowledge, ensuring the latter is amenable to computational processing and retrieval. Search engines exercise a crypto-normative function, establishing formal norms and constraints relating to knowledge production, including academic research outputs, at the same time that they furnish one of the principal means by which this research is conducted. The purpose of this article is not to decry bureaucratic modes of conduct (the bureaucratic-rationalist ethos being central to the responsibilities of academic life), but to stress the importance of scholars reflecting upon their own relationship to the technologies of which they make use and the temporalities these technologies engender.

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Additional Information:

Funding: This work was supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council under Grant AH/T012927/1.


media theory, knowledge, efficiency, search engines, scholarship, digital culture, normativity

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Visual Cultures


26 April 2024Accepted
16 June 2024Published Online

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Date Deposited:

29 Apr 2024 11:55

Last Modified:

17 Jun 2024 10:09

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.



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