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Web Words: a Vocabulary of the Web Interface


The Web is 'Search' and 'More.' We may already know this intuitively: online content, and our experience of it, is mediated by the range of views and actions made available by the interface and, increasingly, the engine. Web Words is an initial contribution by digital methods to the study of the words employed for what one sees and does on the Web, as well as their larger, online-cultural meanings.

The work recognizes in first instance the historical specificity of Web cultures, for instance the ongoing substitution of browsing by the current paradigm of search. It draws on what Niels Brugger (2009) calls the "textual grammar" of websites in order to make claims about changes in the dominant Web interfaces, and the cultures these imply. Particular areas of application of Web words are expected to be studied and taken broadly from the informational Web and the social Web. For example, in the former, the recommendation language demonstrates how the Web organizes culture through attention and relevance, introducing techniques of standing and prominence distinctive to other media (e.g. Last updated, Most Read, etc.). In the social Web, preference and settings language describes new forms of exposure, privacy and self-presentation cultures (manage friends).


  1. Query five digital methods researchers for words and phrases commonly used in Web interfaces.
  2. Fetch estimated number of returns for each phrase in Google.
  3. Size by estimated returns, visualize in tag cloud.


  • Web_Words_Digital_Methods_Initiative_November09.png:
Topic revision: r1 - 25 Nov 2009, MichaelStevenson
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