Critically assess how Google attempts to influence the political organization of society through engaging with the digital.
This assessment task will require you to locate Google within a historic context and analyze its stated intentions, its concrete actions and means of affecting change in the social sphere.
Questions of the ownership and funding model and how this affects the organization and their actions should also be dealt with. What kind of power relations are entangled with the Google and their effort to influence society? What theories best help explain their actions? Critically evaluate how successful the group has been in affecting changes in the political organization of society.
A case study is about a research strategy/methodology used to examine a phenomenon/social problem/issue within its context. A case study is a perfect presentation of a depth analysis resulting from a good extensive research about one topic related to the subject you have learned in Digital Politics.
In your case, you are required to investigate your chosen topic through the theoretical framework of digital politics (shorthand for how internet technologies have fueled the complex interactions between political actors and their constituents).
Make sure that you have a good balance between describing your case study and analysing it. Many of you fall into the trap of being too descriptive when writing about their case. You need to critically engage with underpinning theory and dig in the depth of the selected topic. Here there are some ways to include analysis and avoiding generalizations:
Explaining and giving reasons
Comparing and contrasting
Making suggestions and recommendations
Supporting your ideas with information from appropriate academic sources, professional media outlets and acknowledged data analytic firms
How to start
Choose a topic. In this first stage you are required not to make use of theory. However, I draw your attention to the fact that we live in a world of meaning and not in an empty vacuum. So, we are already affected, consciously and unconsciously – we are aware of it or not – by family traditions, learned knowledge during the school years, other peoples ideas, beliefs, ideologies (which to a certain extend this means theory). This is the reason why, by carrying out a case study or a research paper, we are also required to self-reflect on our own position as a researcher (scholar, student) and on the limitation of our study. Then:
Identify theories that can help you explain if the observed phenomenon/issue/social problem (i.e. global media conglomerates affecting politics) is true or not.
Use the theories to explain how and why the observed phenomenon/issue/social problem is happening.
Remember that you are required to produce a research essay and not an opinion writing. This means that you are required to critically engage with the concepts, ideas (the theory) underpinning your argument (research question), not to merely describe them. Specifically, you are required to discuss/criticize every idea/concept you are using.
Example (Case) + theory = Analysis
On the base of our previous knowledge, the set readings, the lectures, and the discussions during tutorials, we are aware that, in one way or another, Google, Alibaba, Occupy Wally Street, #MeToo, Jeff Bezos or Jack Ma, to make only few examples, attempted to influence the political organisation of society. This means looking at the intersection of technology and politics. Marielle Kaufman and Julien Jeandesboz observe that the most discussed level of this relationship is the ways in which political practices are increasingly organized through and influenced by digital information (2017, p. 309).
So, imagine that you decide that you are interested in investigating global media conglomerate technology company specialized in Internet-related services and products, which include online advertising. It can be Alibaba, Amazon, Google or News Corp, to make only few examples. And you decide to investigate Google. I suggest starting to craft a good research question because it is your research question that leads your whole study/investigation. Something like that: How does Googles search engine affected politics during the USA Presidential Campaign of 2008 and 2016? (as you can see, it is specific, focused, complex and open). If you already know the answer to your research question, it is not a research at all. Now, ask yourself:
Why is it important to investigate Google? – i. e. because Google is the most visited website in the world (Goole.com, Traffic Statistics, 2012) but has received significant criticism involving issues such as privacy concerns, tax avoidance, antitrust, censorship, and search neutrality (Aschoff 2015; McDonald Wallace 1998; Strom, 2018, 2019, 2010; Srnicek 2017; Vaccari 2013; Zuboff 2019).
How do your findings compare with their mission statement – i. e. Googles corporate mission statement is: To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful (2020);
Why could this be a political issue? – here, on the base of the discussed underpinning theory building your argument and your findings (research) – in your own words – you are required to explain why during the period 2010-2020 Google search engine affected politics in USA.