2019 年 94 巻 p. 131-149
Rankings are ubiquitous forms of media in our daily life. In particular, rankings
of search engine results are one of the most commonly encountered media.
However, most users are not aware of how web pages are ranked by search
engines and even the fact that search engine results are ranked. This means
search engines are “black-boxes” and rankings as a form of media are
“obscured”. The purpose of this study is to clarify how this black-box and
obscured media environment has been constructed by chronologically analyzing
major personal computer magazines in the United States during the Web1.0
era. This is a historical analysis of discourses regarding search engine rankings
and the World Wide Web in general.
As a result, this study clarifies the following three conclusions. First, the
World Wide Web was originally considered a plaything, like “web-surfing,”
before becoming a tool for searching information. Secondly, tools for searching
webpages changed from semantic directories to computational rankings. Lastly,
discourse explaining computational technology gradually disappeared as a result
of a change in the search engine environment from over-competition to monopolization.
Through this historical process, search engine rankings as media became
“black-boxes” and implicit trust in the rankings were constructed. Consequently,
users came to unconsciously consider only the top-ranked contents and rankings
as a form became obscured. This result suggests that the implicit trust in
these black-box platforms can potentially amplify “trolling” or “fake news.” The
study contributes to understanding how digital platforms affect daily communications,
applying a media studies perspective.