Geography matters even when searching on Google. Researchers took at look at search results on Google for 188 capital cities to see the country of origin for the top results. The authors of the study recent published online in the Annals of the American Association of Geographers wanted to answer two questions: To what degree is this city-related information locally produced and diverse? Which countries are producing their own representations and which are represented by others?
To reduce the effects of personalization and spatiotemporal biases in the data, the researchers performed searches for capital cities at different times and different geolocations. Searches were performed both on the main .com Google domain and for each country, the country specific domain (e.g. google.it) if available. Searches were done on both the English and home country language(s) (Such as “Rome” and “Roma”). A total of 33,736 result URLs were collected for this study.
The study found capital city search in “wealthy and well-connected countries” were more likely to have search results for URLs that are locally produced. Furthermore, the wealthier countries were also more likely to be the source country of high ranking search results for other countries. The authors found that “results for sixty-one countries, the United States supplies over half of the first page content on Google.” This, the authors concluded, “gives rise to a form of digital hegemony, whereby producers in a few countries get to define what is read by others.”
Ballatore, A., Graham, M., & Sen, S. (2017). Digital hegemonies: the localness of search engine results. Annals of the American Association of Geographers, 1-22.