critical reading for the rude

google myth

Recently read Google and the Myth of Universal Knowledge: A View from Europe by Jean-Noel Jeanneney. Not bad, not bad.

A few thoughts —

Right, Google’s out to make money. If they were really interested primarily in “organizing the world’s info” above and beyond profit, they’d be some kind of NGO. But they’re a publicly traded corporation beholden to their shareholders. That should be primary in librarians’ minds.

Anybody who organizes “the world’s” info is a cultural gatekeeper — and as Frenchy points out in the book, your profit motive will skew your impartiality when it comes to selling access to cultural artifacts.

Google is a very American company. I love Google. I was talking with the wife the other night and she actually used the words love and trust in the same sentence in ref. to Google. That stunned me. Stunned? B/c I somehow feel that way too — I really want to believe that Google is a force for good. That they really will not be evil. Why is that? What the hell kind of excellent marketing is that? I don’t think it’s entirely intentional on their part… they have a hella fanbase that tends this hearth.

Google’s cultural gatekeeping will be Americanified. It will not be neutral.

But wait.

Google (as one example) is doing what libraries haven’t gotten off their asses to do. They’re actually succeeding at organizing the world’s information (or at least taking bold, staggering, toddler’s steps in that direction). Libraries, as HeavyD points out frequently, are way too busy talking about the fact that they’re now mostly bun-less (and goodness gracious wouldn’t it be nice if the teevee shows showed librarians with cool haircuts and yadayadayada). Librarians are conservative — and that’s good. They conserve and preserve info to make it available to folks — good! Great! But libraries are not equipped for this new game, obviously. Cry in their milk all they want to, they’ve missed it.

If we (librarians) see Google-fication as a set of challenges we must rise to, there’s still hope.


April 2, 2007 - Posted by | books, info sci, search

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