The purpose of this paper is to explore informational structures producing and organising the construction of waste sorting in Sweden. It shows how the issue is constructed by it being searched for in Google and how this contributes to the specific informational texture of waste sorting in Sweden. It is guided by the following questions: who are the main actors and which are the central topics featuring in Google results on popular, suggested searches for waste sorting in Sweden? What do the link relations between these tell the author about the issue space that is formed around waste sorting in Sweden? How is the construction of the notions of waste sorting and waste shaped in the information available through Google’s features for related and other relevant searches?
Waste sorting is discussed as a practice structured along moral rules and as a classification exercise. The study brings together two types of material, results from searches carried out in Google and lists of Google query suggestions for relevant search terms. These are analysed with a mixed method approach, uniting quantitative network analysis and qualitative content analysis of query suggestions. A sociomaterial approach theoretically grounds the analysis.
Waste sorting in Sweden emerges as an issue that is characterised by dense networks of rules and regulation, focused in public authorities and government agencies, which in turn address consumers, waste management businesses and other authorities. Search engine use and waste sorting in Sweden are shown to be joined together in various mundane everyday life practices and practices of governance that become visible through the search engine in form of search results and suggested searches. The search engine is shown to work as a fluid classification system, which is also created and shaped by its use.
The study offers a novel methodological approach to studying the informational structures of an issue and of its shaping through it being searched for. The sociomaterially grounded analysis of Google as a fluid classification system is original.
The author thanks the anonymous reviewers for valuable comments that greatly improved the paper. The research was funded by the Swedish Research Council framework grant: “Knowledge in the Digital World: Trust, Credibility & Relevance on the Web”.
Haider, J. (2016), "The structuring of information through search: sorting waste with Google", Aslib Journal of Information Management, Vol. 68 No. 4, pp. 390-406. https://doi.org/10.1108/AJIM-12-2015-0189Download as .RIS
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