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Metrics are cultural not just when they measure “cultural” activities or content. They are cultural also in that the raw material on which metrics are built is itself culturally and contextually specific.
An essential element of Google’s PageRank is that links, because they are created by users, can be tallied up as metric of a websites’ authority and influence. But the meanings of links vary across cultures and communities: blogging and mainstream media linking practices differ, U.S. and Indian linking practices differ. This paper explores some of these different linking cultures, drawing from data and examples generated by the Media Cloud platform (mediacloud.org).
Metrics are also cultural because they can re-enter the domain they’re supposed to measure. For example, links can be created on purpose, or deliberately left out, “because” they will be measured by search engines. This paper will also examine culturally reflexive uses of hyperlinks.