19.577 Google

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>
Date: Thu, 26 Jan 2006 06:47:10 +0000

               Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 19, No. 577.
       Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                     Submit to: humanist_at_princeton.edu

   [1] From: James Cummings <James.Cummings_at_ota.ahds.ac.uk> (68)
         Subject: Re: 19.574 is Google a good thing?

   [2] From: Pat Galloway <galloway_at_ischool.utexas.edu> (9)
         Subject: Re: 19.574 is Google a good thing?

   [3] From: Gerda Elata-Alster <gerda_at_bgumail.bgu.ac.il> (10)
         Subject: Re: 19.574 is Google a good thing?

         Date: Thu, 26 Jan 2006 06:32:24 +0000
         From: James Cummings <James.Cummings_at_ota.ahds.ac.uk>
         Subject: Re: 19.574 is Google a good thing?

Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty
<willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>) wrote:
> "Putting all this together", Lanchester writes in closing his review,
> "we reach the conclusion that, on the one hand, Google is cool. On
> the other hand, Google has the potential to destroy the publishing
> industry, the newspaper business, high street retailing and our
> privacy. Not that it will necessarily do any of these things, but for
> the first time, considered soberly, these things are technologically
> possible. The company is rich and determined and is not going away
> any time soon. They know what they are doing technologically;
> socially, though, they can't possibly know, and I don't think anyone
> else can either. These are the earliest days in a process of what may
> turn out to be radical change. The best historical analogy for where
> Google is today probably comes from the time when the railroads were
> being built. Everyone knew that trains and railways would change the
> world, but no one predicted the invention of suburbs. Google, and the
> increased flow of information on which it rides and from which it
> benefits, is the railway. I don't think we've yet seen the first suburbs."


Similarly to Lanchester, I'm always torn when discussing Google. I too find it
'cool', and use many of their services on a daily (or near enough) basis
including the search engine, but also GMail, Google Reader, Google Maps, Google
Local,etc. and am a faithful reader of the Google Blog.[1] I've not yet tried
their SMS-based services, but can understand how price-checking with Froogle or
getting addresses with Google Local might be useful when out and
about. However,
I have always been highly sceptical of their mission statement "to organize the
world's information and make it universally accessible and useful".[2] Not all
information should be made universally accessible, and I for one revel in some
useless information. Moreover, having the ability of organizing it implies to
me that they will have some control over it. If we replace the word 'organize'
with 'control' in that mission statement then it becomes scary: "to control the
world's information". But because it is such a geeky company -- and now
continues to intentionally market itself as such -- geeks such as me *want* to
like it. So we ignore this fear and put our faith in their 'Do no evil'[3]
policy, even though they've been shown to ignore/fail at this in the past.
(Lanchester mentions the China site-blocking as a well-known example.) They
are, perhaps, doing better at this in their recent refusals to disclose search
information for a US government legal case.[4] However, even in this
instance it
is not only the privacy of their users but also, they admit, company trade
secrets that they have a vested interest in protecting. Google sits in uneasy
balance in my mind. If I examine my own searching habits, like many
I'm sure, I
tend to turn to them first.[5] Google used to be perceived as 'the good guy'
against the evil Micro$oft...but given that google also makes billions, is this
really warranted?[6]


[1] http://labs.google.com/ often shows services they are publicly
The google blog is at http://googleblog.blogspot.com/ but I use Google Reader
http://www.google.com/reader/ their RSS feed aggregator to read it.
[2] http://www.google.com/corporate/index.html
[3] Though actually, http://www.google.com/intl/en/corporate/tenthings.html
shows that the policy really is: "You can make money without doing evil" and is
number 6 on the list. Some argue that the AOL deal is another good example of
them veering away from this.
[4] See http://www.eff.org/news/archives/2006_01.php#004328 and
[5] Though, I do also use pop-up search 'bookmarklets' on my browser toolbar to
search dictionary.com, OED, IMBD, MultiMap, Lewis&Short, and Wikipedia amongst
others directly. (In addition to various local search engines and one to add a
new search button for any URL which contains the search term.)
[6] Of course there are other reasons not to like or use Microsoft...

Dr James Cummings, Oxford Text Archive, University of Oxford
James dot Cummings at oucs dot ox dot ac dot uk
Ask me about free long-term preservation of your electronic texts.
         Date: Thu, 26 Jan 2006 06:33:10 +0000
         From: Pat Galloway <galloway_at_ischool.utexas.edu>
         Subject: Re: 19.574 is Google a good thing?
One simple reply: If you take the quote "Google has the potential to
destroy the publishing
industry, the newspaper business, high street retailing and our
privacy" and substitute the name of any large corporation or
government with the requisite technological savvy, it would be
equally true. As we are beginning to grasp. The TREC process has been
cracking issues like voice-to-text for years (solved a few years
ago), and now it is working on face recognition. Who will own that?
Pat Galloway
         Date: Thu, 26 Jan 2006 06:33:59 +0000
         From: Gerda Elata-Alster <gerda_at_bgumail.bgu.ac.il>
         Subject: Re: 19.574 is Google a good thing?
re: the company [Google] is rich and determined"
Why put the blame on Google alone? Its users are as determined as
Google and if they're not rich, many of them may strive to become so
by a.o.using Google. For every Google destroyed (because of its
perceived social perniciousness) ten will rise up. We haven't seen
the first suburb yet, but isn't it exciting to think that we may be
on the verge of something entirely new, something we weren't able to
dream up? No inventions or their results were ever intrinsicly or
universally good or bad, but any could be put to use for either - BY US!!
Gerda Elata-Alster
Received on Thu Jan 26 2006 - 02:04:40 EST

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