As he notes, the common misconception of publications relating to search engines, has been their attribution to the marketing of goods and services through search engines (e.g. search engine optimization or SEO).
Instead, Alex explains that Search Engine Society focuses on the media effects and cultural impact relating to online search engines, which I believe is an issue that has largely been ignored. Just as newspapers once dictated how we perceived the tone of each day, the mechanism (and failings) of search engines immensely affects the way we perceive the world around us.
If you wish to watch more, stay tuned to Alex Halavais’ blog. Here’s an earlier video overview of his Search Engine Society syllabus for 2009. Finally, you can go at your own pace by buying the dead trees version.