Thursday, September 29, 2011

Rockhill Recommends: Googlization

I took the time last night to attend a lecture at the Linda Hall Library on Google's impact on the Internet and our culture. More on that in a second.
First a brief shout out to the Linda Hall Library. It is one of the leading science, engineering and technology libraries in the World. 
The information they have archived, and the role they are playing in current innovation cannot be underestimated.
I would also recommend that you visit their latest exhibit, This Time It's Personal: Innovation In Your Home. From Aspirin to the light switch to Pez Candy, it covers the research, discovery, development and intellectual property of things we use every day.  

The opening speaker in support of the new exhibit was Siva Vaidhyanathan, a professor of media and law at the University of Virginia. His talk was in support of his current book, The Googlization of Everything (And Why We Should Worry). He has a supporting website as well here. This post is not a review of the lecture or a commentary on the book. That will come later after I have had a chance to read the book and do some research. I would however, recommend that everyone take some time and check out a bit more about his thoughts on Google. 

Siva does a nice job of summarizing the incredible role that Google has played in our lives in the 13 years (yes, it has actually been that long) since its founding at Stanford in 1998. Early on the mission was simple, but oh so lofty...

He raises the valid question of why we should trust Google with this and how they have delivered.
Why this task shouldn't be entrusted to the academic institutions and librarians of the World.
Google determines how important search results are via their algorithms and he provides examples of Google modifying results for various reasons in spite of their claim that they do not alter search results. Some are for generally altruistic reasons such as a racist website "gaming" the results to get higher placement. He questions why we, as consumers accept this. Generally, it is because we don't know.
It is comforting to know that Google doesn't remove information. In that respect they really do attempt to archive all of the World's information. However, as a writer and researcher, I do find that you need even sharper personal analytical skills when working online.

He also offers a few other tidbits of insight that are worth considering:
  • We are not Google's customers. The advertisers are. Google only views us as customers so far as they need us to keep eyeballs on their site to sell to advertisers. 
  • As technology consumers we generally are willing to accept technology as magic and not explore how a product or service works. Companies such as Apple and Google benefit from this. 
  • Google fundamentally transformed the Internet for the better by working to filter out pornographic results that were served via spam or due to typographical error. This work to make the Internet safer for business and family use helped to also make the consumer feel safer about using the Internet for their financial needs.
  • When you use Google you are seeing the world through their lense. It is filtered. 
  • Google may be radically different in five years and may not even exist in ten. That is the type of technology world we live in.
Overall, Mr. Vaidhyanathan offered some great perspectives on the good and bad of Google. The questions that he poses are easily applicable to many other communications channels, social media et cetera. 

What he did not discuss is the rapidly expanding technology channels that Google is moving toward. For instance, I am typing this using Google Chrome browser. Google has mobile technology, hardware with Chrome Book and is developing a one-gigabyte Google Fiber technology in Kansas City. It is currently being installed outside my office window.

(Update) Google now has also opened a retail pop up store in London as reported by The London Evening Standard. This could be the direct assault on Apple that many have anticipated. The fundamental difference is, if Google is successful in hardware and retail sales, they will also possess an incredible wealth of content and the means of distribution.  
I look forward to exploring these more and sharing thoughts with my readers here. 

Possibly the most cogent and interesting comment was when he likened Google to Julius Caesar. A benevolent dictator who does indeed improve life for many but at what cost?    

No comments:

Post a Comment