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By Renee Hobbs

Media Literacy IN ACTION


Questioning the Media


How Do Search Engines work? 

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Learning Outcomes

1. Understand how the Internet has changed over time

2. Learn why data are important to the economy

3. Consider the impact of algorithms on individuals and society

4. Reflect on the consequences of search personalization

5. Consider how data surveillance affects people’s privacy and


Algorithmic search technologies may be both a blessing and a curse



Curate Knowledge

Curation is a process of carefully selecting information to increase knowledge. When a list of online sources is carefully curated and annotated, it can be valuable to others. After reading this chapter, use a search engine to explore a topic of search engines and social media interest to you and create a “Top 10” list of resources on the topic.

Select diverse genres and types of media, including at least:



news story

scholarly article

In creating your own annotated list of online resources, make a list of the search terms you will use to find diverse perspectives on this topic. See if you can find information from people who have different perspectives or professional expertise, including ordinary people, scholars and researchers, company executives, activists, and other voices with something to say about your topic.


Try using a curation platform to make your work available to diverse audiences. Share your curated list by publishing your work, using the hashtag #MLinAction.





Reflect on your typical search process when you are trying to buy something online. When you are online, you might take on the following roles:

Navigator: You use menus to find what you are looking for.

Scroller: You like reviewing a lot of images to search for things.

Searcher: You use keywords to type in the name of things you are looking for.

Shopper: You use reviews from other shoppers who provide hyperlinks to products and services.

For the next few days, pay attention to your search processes as you engage in online shopping, and then reflect on your own patterns.


Consider the advantages and disadvantages of each of these four roles and consider how and why you may mix these strategies at different stages of your shopping process.

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Compose an informal video response that answers 1 or more of these questions:


• In what kinds of shopping situations have you found yourself using search engines?

• Do you notice any patterns about typical ways that you use search engines for shopping purposes?

• Can you describe one of the best experiences searching for something and one of the worst experiences you have had?

• Based on your experience, do you have any tips, tricks, or advice for other people who might want to improve their online shopping skills?



“There is no escaping from power, that it is always-already present constituting that very thing which one attempts to counter it with."


--Michel Foucault, 1980

Learn more about how Michel Foucault influenced a generation of media literacy educators, researchers & activists



How Google Search Works (in 5 minutes)

How Google Search Works (in 5 minutes)

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