Searching and deleting: youth, impression management and online traces of search

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to explore and analyse how young people conceptualise online traces of search and what strategies they have for dealing with them. Design/methodology/approach: The topic was investigated through a qualitative and ethnographic approach. Interviews, go-alongs and observations in schools were carried out with nine participants in Sweden. Findings: The findings show that the participants’ main strategy in relation to online traces was to remove items from their search logs. Search logs were a tangible way of conceptualising online traces of search. The participants removed items in relation to an imagined audience which, in the present material, primarily consisted of parents and teachers. The findings also showed that the participants had some awareness of online traces but had difficulties in understanding the way that data flow and the persistence of data. Their strategies were more reactive than proactive in relation to online traces. Originality/value: The present study contributes with a novel exploration of understandings of online traces of search. Further, it contribute theoretically by investigating the topic through the lens of audience and impression management.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)34-48
Number of pages15
JournalAslib Journal of Information Management
Issue number1
Early online date2019 Nov 4
Publication statusPublished - 2020

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Information Studies


  • Ethnography
  • Goffman
  • Impression management
  • Online traces
  • Search engines
  • Youth


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