Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Googlization of Everything

Siva Vaidhyanathan, cultural historian and media scholar at the University of Virginia, is writing a new book titled The Googlization of Everything: How One Company is Disrupting Culture, Commerce, and Community... And Why We Should Worry, and he maintains a blog with the same name. On his blog, he recently gave a great example of where uncritical use of Internet search engines can lead. He told the story about a news reporter who had searched for the words "bankruptcy 2008" in Google and found a news article in the Google News results that (long story short) was labeled as having happened in 2008 but which had actually happened in 2002. The company in question, an airline, had successfully reorganized after the 2002 bankruptcy, but this fact was apparently unknown to the reporter because he wrote an erroneous article about the airline that damaged the company financially.

Siva noted all the problems leading up to this disastrous ending:

This anecdote teaches us some valuable lessons about our alarming dependence on Google... We live in a world flooded with data. We live lives devoted to maximum speed and dexterity, rather than deliberation and wisdom. Many of our systems, not least electronic journalism, are biased toward the new and the now. And even after living intimately with networked computers for almost two decades we lack a widespread understanding of what such systems can and cannot do, or even how they work. We trust them with far too much that is dear to us and fail to master their limits and problems.

Read the full post here.

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