The structuring of information through search: Sorting waste with Google

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Purpose: This study explores informational structures producing and organizing 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 us 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?
Design/methodology/approach: 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.
Finding: 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.
Originality/value: 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.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Information Studies


  • search engines, socio-material, google, Environmental communication, environmental information, recycling
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)390-406
Number of pages17
JournalAslib Journal of Information Management
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2016
Publication categoryResearch

Related projects

Jutta Haider


Project: Research

Cathrine V. Felix, Emmanuel Genot, Erik J Olsson, George Masterton, Kristoffer Ahlstrom-Vij, Rasmus Kraemmer Rendsvig, Sille Obelitz Søe, Ylva von Gerber, Jonas Fransson, Cecilia Andersson, Jutta Haider, Lars Ilshammar, Linnéa Lindsköld, Olof Sundin, Sara Kjellberg & Hanna Carlsson

Swedish Research Council


Project: Research

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Related activities

Haider, J. (Invited speaker)
2016 Oct 12

Activity: Talk or presentationInvited talk

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