Archive for August 27th, 2011

Book Review: The Googlization of Everything

August 27, 2011

The Googlization of EverythingThis book by Siva Vaidhyanathan has the provocative subtitle “And why we should worry”, which defines the subtext of the book questioning whether the “Do no evil” search engine company has become something else as a result of its efforts to monetize everything. The book covers the broad domains that Google impacts modern life and discusses the predominant thinking driving the company – “faith in aptitude and technology” and infrastructure imperialism.”

The two pivotal chapters are “The Googlization of Knowledge” and “The Googlization of Memory”.  The former deals primarily with the Google Book project and makes a point about the importance of preserving knowledge in the digital age, particularly preserving out-of-print books. But, the author cautions, should a for profit company hold such a public trust that has traditionally been held by public libraries. Similarly, in the latter, the author questions whether “Google is making use stupid” or not. Does consuming snippets of knowledge limit our ability to read for extended periods and reflect?And what impact does it have on education, particularly higher education? Both are valid questions and it may be that the way we think and consume information is changing. However, not all of this is due to Google as much as it is to social media and Wikipedia. Consumption of knowledge is becoming the ability to think critically about the volume of available information and not be controlled by the filters and overload of information. Understanding knowledge algorithms rather than being subservient to them is the key.

In conclusion, the author proposes a bold new project, The Human Knowledge Project, which appeals to the need to have more public control over knowledge through libraries and democratic processes rather than commercial interests. One might agree with him since the recent demise of Google Health. If Google Books are not profitable in 5-10 years, will this project also be abandoned leaving the legacy of digitalized books behind? Yet much of the books skepticism about Google and fears are overdrawn. Perhaps Google’s service to higher education through Gmail and other services will help it keep a commitment to educational and knowledge resources in the future.

This book by Siva Vaidhyanathan has the provocative subtitle “And why we should worry”, which defines the subtext of the book questioning whether the “Do no evil” search engine company has become something else as a result of its efforts to monetize everything. The book covers the broad domains that Google impacts modern life and discusses the predominant thinking driving the company – “faith in aptitude and technology” and infrastructure imperialism.”

The two pivotal chapters are “The Googlization of Knowledge” and “The Googlization of Memory”.  The former deals primarily with the Google Book project and makes a point about the importance of preserving knowledge in the digital age, particularly preserving out-of-print books. But, the author cautions, should a for profit company hold such a public trust that has traditionally been held by public libraries. Similarly, in the latter, the author questions whether “Google is making use stupid” or not. Does consuming snippets of knowledge limit our ability to read for extended periods and reflect?And what impact does it have on education, particularly higher education? Both are valid questions and it may be that the way we think and consume information is changing. However, not all of this is due to Google as much as it is to social media and Wikipedia. Consumption of knowledge is becoming the ability to think critically about the volume of available information and not be controlled by the filters and overload of information. Understanding knowledge algorithms rather than being subservient to them is the key.

In conclusion, the author proposes a bold new project, The Human Knowledge Project, which appeals to the need to have more public control over knowledge through libraries and democratic processes rather than commercial interests. One might agree with him since the recent demise of Google Health. If Google Books are not profitable in 5-10 years, will this project also be abandoned leaving the legacy of digitalized books behind? Yet much of the books skepticism about Google and fears are overdrawn. Perhaps Google’s service to higher education through Gmail and other services will help it keep a commitment to educational and knowledge resources in the future.

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