Visions and values in the shaping of search engines

The project investigated three alternative search engines from Europe: The privacy-friendly search engine Startpage, the peer-to-peer search engine YaCy, and the Open Web Index initiative. The analysis focused on visions and values shaping these search engines, how these get translated into search technology, and how the European context matters in these practices.

The results show that the search engine projects are driven by values such as privacy, openness, de-centrality and independence. These values are not fixed or rigid, but rather fluid, context-dependent, and changing over time tightly intertwined with the development of the technologies. This flexiblity enables the projects to develop a certain value pragmatics needed to grow and become more sustainable. Moreover, “European values”, and broader notions of Europe as “unified or pluralistic”, were imagined and co-produced along with the technologies. Some of them, such as privacy and digital sovereignty, were anchored in larger European narratives to situate and promote the projects. 

Furthermore, less prominent visions of Europe were shaped in the context of alternative search engines, which pointed towards challenges in the particular Europen context. The frame of “bureaucratic Europe” most importantly, which search engine developers related to cumbersome funding structures and a reluctant start-up mentality. Moreover, alternative visions of a pluralistic Europe were articulated in regard to techonlogical diversity and de-centrality. An open web index, for example, could create a whole range of different search engines, ranking algorithms, and applications. This would better correspond to multicultural, divers, and federal European contexts than big tech companies like Google that primarily count on monopolism and commercialization.

To conclude, the project finally suggested three interventions that may help pave the way towards pluarlistic Europe based on technological diversity and decentrality.

  • Long-term funding and slow scalability: Big infrastructure projects like an open web index as a backbone to search engine diversity require bold, long-term, and sustainable funding structures to develop digital sovereignty.
  • Continuous auditing and advice: The making and governing of digital technologies requires continuous and interdisciplinary advice guaranteed by professional, independent processes and authorities, as well as adequate resources; instead of ex-post, snapshot auditing.
  • Opening up data? The development of alternative technologies and infrastructures requires data to train algorithms and machine learning models. How to open up commercial data, to share public data, and to create collective data pools that go beyond individual responsibility and ownership of data are central questions that need to be tackled in the future.

The results of this project will be combined with results from two previous search engine projects to write the habilitation “Algorithmic Imaginaries”. This habilitation will show how search technology and society co-emerge in specific economic, political, and cultural environments; with a particular focus on the European context.



  • Mager, A. (2023). European Search? How to counter-imagine and counteract hegemonic search with European search engine projects. Big Data And Societyspecial Issue “The State Of Google Critique And Intervention”, 10, 1-13. doi:10.1177/20539517231163173
  • Mager, A. (2022). David gegen Goliath? Wie europäische Suchmaschinen digitale Zukünfte neu denken und gestalten. OVE Informationstechnik-NewsletterSchwerpunkt Social Media. Retrieved from
  • ITA [Hrsg.],. (2022). New paths towards open data? ITA Dossier No 63en (May 2022, Author: Fynn Semken, Astrid Mager). Wien. doi:10.1553/ita-doss-063en
  • ITA [Hrsg.],. (2022). Neue Wege zu offenen Daten. ITA-Dossier Nr. 63 (Mai 2022; Autor*innen: Fynn Semken, Astrid Mager). Wien. doi:10.1553/ita-doss-063
  • Riedlinger, D. (2022). Wie diskriminierend sind Computersysteme?. Ita-Newsfeed. Retrieved from
  • Mager, A., & Katzenbach, C. (2021). Future imaginaries in the making and governing of digital technology: Multiple, contested, commodified. New Media And Societyspecial Issue: “We Are On A Mission”. Exploring Future Imaginaries In The Making And Governing Of Digital Technology., 23, 223-236. doi:10.1177/1461444820929321
  • Mager, A., & Allhutter, D. (2020). AMS-Algorithmus könnte zu struktureller und sozialer Ungleichheit beitragen. Arbeit Und Wirtschaft Blog. Retrieved from
  • Mager, A. (2020). Deus ex machina? Rezension zu "Todesalgorithmus: Das Dilemma der künstlichen Intelligenz" von Roberto Simanowski. Retrieved from
  • Mager, A. (2020). Digitale Weichenstellungen in der Krise. Der Standard - Junge Akademie Blog. Retrieved from
  • Mager, A., & Mayer, K. (2019). Body data-data body: Tracing ambiguous trajectories of data bodies between empowerment and social control in the context of health. Momentum Quarterly, 8, 95-108. doi:10.15203/momentumquarterly.vol8.no2.p95-108
  • Mager, A. (2019). Zur Definition der Ideologie des Algorithmus: Kommerzielle Suchmaschinen im Licht der Ideologiekritik. Maske Und Kothurn, 64, 107-127. doi:10.7767/mako.2018.64.1-2.107
  • Mager, A. (2019). Book Review: Ann Rudinow Sætnan, Ingrid Schneider, and Nicola Green (2018): The Politics of Big Data. Big Data, Big Brother?. Information, Communication And Society, 22, 1523-1525. doi:10.1080/1369118X.2019.1567804
  • Mager, A. (2018). Internet governance as joint effort: (Re)Ordering search engines at the intersection of global and local cultures. New Media &Amp; Society, 20, 3657-3677. Retrieved from
  • Mager, A., & Mayer, K. (2017). Biofeedback. Von Körperdaten und Datenkörpern. In H. Ranzenbacher (Ed.), FIN/2 – Liquid Music. Wies: Eigenverlag Liquid Music.
  • Mager, A. (2017). Search engine imaginary: Visions and values in the co-production of search technology and Europe. Social Studies Of Science, 47, 240-262. Retrieved from
  • Bayer, T. (2016). Wie ticken Suchmaschinen?. Retrieved from
  • Mager, A. (2014). Ideologie des Algorithmus. Wie der neue Geist des Kapitalismus Suchmaschinen formt. In B. Stark, Dörr, D., & Aufenanger, S. (Eds.), Die Googleisierung der Informationssuche. Suchmaschinen zwischen Nutzung und Regulierung (pp. 201-223). Berlin / Boston: De Gruyter. Retrieved from
  • 1

Conference Papers/Speeches

Conference Papers/Speeches

  • 07/12/2022 , Cholula (online)
    Astrid Mager: 
    How to counter-act hegemonic search with European search projects “growing in the ruins scalability leaves behind”
  • 04/11/2022 , Dublin
    Astrid Mager: 
    Marginalized search. How to counter-act hegemonic search with alternative search projects from Europe
    AOIR Conference
  • 07/07/2022 , Madrid
    Astrid Mager: 
    Alternative Search. Envisioning and encoding social justice in European search infrastructures
    EASST2022 - Politics of Technoscientifc Futures
  • 01/06/2022 , Wien
    Astrid Mager: 
    How to counter–act hegemonic search with alternative search projects from Europe
    International Digital Security Forum
  • 17/05/2022 , Wien
    Astrid Mager: 
    Algorithmic Imaginaries. Visions and values in the shaping of search engines
    Digital Humanities lecture series
  • 12/04/2022 , Wien
    Astrid Mager: 
    Algorithmic Imaginaries
    Lecture “Algorithmic Imaginaries” & panel discussion
  • 22/02/2022 , Wien
    Astrid Mager: 
    Algorithmische Imaginationen. Von der kapitalistischen Ideologie zur Suchmaschinen-Diversität?
    Lecture zu Gender & Diversity
  • 14/10/2021 , Hallstatt
    Astrid Mager: 
    Momentum Young Research Workshop
    Momentum Kongress, Preconference
  • 12/10/2021 , online / Genf
    Astrid Mager: 
    Encoding social change? Analysis of open search technology between German hacker ethics and Asian star-up culture
    3rd International Search Symposium (invited keynote)
  • 09/10/2021 , online / Toronto
    Astrid Mager: 
    Encoding Freedom: Analysis of open search technology between German hacker ethics and Asian start-up culture
    4S Annual Meeting 2021
  • 16/09/2021 , online / Lund
    Astrid Mager: 
    Searching for alternatives. How counter-imaginaries drive digital search technology
    Search Symposium, Lund University (invited keynote)
  • 11/05/2021 , online / Wien
    Astrid Mager: 
    Auf zu neuen Ufern? Analyse von alternativen Suchmaschinen und deren Imaginationen von demokratischen digitalen Zukünften
    Digital, direkt, demokratisch? Technikfolgenabschätzung und die Zukunft der Demokratie (NTA9-TA21)
  • 18/03/2021 , Wien
    Astrid Mager: 
    Coping with the Covid-19 crisis
    Virtual ÖAW Joint Academy Day (panel discussion)
  • 28/01/2021 , Wien
    Astrid Mager: 
    Algorithmen - Freund oder Feind?
    Live-Diskussion der Wiener Zeitung
  • 16/10/2020 , Online
    Astrid Mager: 
    Ask Susi! Analyzing open search technology between German hacker ethics and Asian start-up culture
    Momentum Kongress: Republik
  • 16/10/2020 , online
    Doris Allhutter,  Astrid Mager,  : 
    Algorithmic Welfare: BürgerInnen-Profiling im Wohlfahrtsstaat
    Momentum Kongress: Republik
  • 11/09/2020 , Linz
    Astrid Mager: 
    How to create your own AI device with SUSI.AI – An open source platform for conversational web
    Ars Electronica Festival
  • 19/08/2020 , online /Prague
    Astrid Mager: 
    Future imaginaries in the making and governing of digital technology: Multiple, contested, commodified
    4S/EASST conference 2020
  • 18/08/2020 , online /Prague
    Astrid Mager: 
    How to push back hegemonic search? Analyzing alternative imaginaries in search engine design and their potential to contribute to more open digital futures
    4S/EASST conference 2020
  • 05/12/2019 , Wien
    Astrid Mager: 
    Das eingefärbte Fenster zu Welt
    punkt eins


11/2016 - 11/2022

Project team


Elise Richter project.