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The Googlization of Everything: (And Why We Should Worry) Hardcover – March 8, 2011

3.8 out of 5 stars 29 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. What is the nature of the transaction between Google's computer algorithms and its millions of human users? Are we heading down a path toward a more enlightened age, or are we approaching a dystopia of social control and surveillance? With these and other questions, University of Virginia media studies and law professor Vaidhyanathan thoughtfully examines the insidious influence of Google on our society. In just over a decade, Google has moved so rapidly in its mission to "organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful" that cries of "Google it!" resound through high school classrooms, business offices, academic halls, and public libraries. As Vaidhyanathan points out, we must be cautious about embracing Google's mission and not accept uncritically that Google has our best interests in mind. He reminds us that Google is a publicly traded, revenue-driven firm that is dangerous in many subtle ways. By valuing popularity over accuracy and established sites over new ones, Google sets its own agenda regarding what information is most relevant to users, altering their perceptions about value and significance. Vaidhyanathan admirably concludes with a design for an information ecosystem called the Human Knowledge Project, which would be a more democratic means of parsing and organizing knowledge. (Mar.)
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An intriguing exposé of the popular website. . . The author unmasks the monster behind the friendly interface with the suspense of a horror novel. An urgent reminder to look more closely at dangers that lurk in plain sight. --Kirkus Reviews

--Kirkus Reviews

An intriguing exposé of the popular website. . . The author unmasks the monster behind the friendly interface with the suspense of a horror novel. An urgent reminder to look more closely at dangers that lurk in plain sight. --Kirkus Reviews
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 280 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press; 1 edition (March 8, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520258827
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520258822
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #886,363 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Jonathan Zittrain on March 15, 2011
Format: Hardcover
The Googlization of Everything offers a crisp vision for what kind of information society we should be building. That one might not agree with it is a feature -- this is a book that doesn't state the obvious. Rather, it pushes us to rethink what we take for granted, noticing the medium in which we swim, instead of just moving right along.

The book is an impressive synthesis of the current thinking on and around Google -- much of it applicable to any contemporary dot-com with runaway success. One of Siva's objections to the "googlization" of the online knowledge space is that while institutions like libraries and universities typically plan to be around in a hundred years, companies like Google do not necessarily have, or plan for, such staying power. This is a nicely contestable sentiment -- that, as a corporate entity, Google is inherently shorter lived then, say, the University of Virginia, or at least its values are less consistent over time. It sets up a deeper question of what mix of institutions ought to contribute to the world and serve as gateways to our accumulated knowledge, and with what ethos (ethoi?).

In the last section, Siva proposes a Human Knowledge Project. The name is derived from the Human Genome Project. It is intended to be a "global information ecosystem," essentially a Google by and for the public sphere: "The Human Knowledge Project should [be] open, public, global, multilingual, and focused. It should be sensitive to the particular needs of communities of potential knowledge users around the world, yet it should be committed to building a global system that can erase the gaps in knowledge that current exist between a child growing up in a poor village in South Africa and another growing up in a wealthy city in Canada.
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Format: Hardcover
I was first introduced to Siva Vaidhyanathan's work a few years ago when he gave a presentation on the Google Books Project, a project in which my institution was set to participate with full force. As a librarian with a love of technology but a hearty skepticism about its effects on society, I expected the presentation to be a love letter to Google. Instead the presentation turned out to be a love letter to libraries and librarians, and I have been a fan of his ever since.

I found the same his latest book, the "Googlization of Everything". The idea of "techno-fundamentalism" resonated deeply with me as I have struggled with efforts in my profession to abandon tried and true methods of librarianship and information science in the rush to embrace the latest gadget or newest technology. Indeed, American culture (and it could be argued Western culture as well) has become fascinated with all things tech to the point of techno-fundamentalism, or a blind faith in technology and its ability to solve all the world's problems. Technology has done great things for the human race, but has also had weighty consequences as well.

The author does not seek to destroy Google or even hope for its demise. Instead he argues that we need to take back the objects of our culture from Google and others who, in the name of technology, progress, faster search and access, would seek to monopolize them and make money from them. I appreciate Dr. Vaidhyanathan's vision for a Human Knowledge Project, and hope to assist him and others in making that a reality. True change will only come about through deliberation, debate, and collaboration. It will not be handed down from a "benevolent giant" like Google.
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Format: Hardcover
Google's been in the news a lot the past week. Concerned about the quality of their search results, they're imposing new penalties on "content farms" and certain firms, including JC Penney and Overstock.com. Accusations are flying fast and furious; the "antichrist of Silicon Valley" has flatly told the Googlers to "stop cheating."

As the debate heats up and accelerates in internet time, it's a pleasure to turn to Siva Vaidhyanathan's The Googlization of Everything, a carefully considered take on the company composed over the past five years. After this week is over, no one is going to really care whether Google properly punished JC Penney for scheming its way to the top non-paid search slot for "grommet top curtains." But our culture will be influenced in ways large and small by Google's years of dominance, whatever happens in coming years. I don't have time to write a full review now, but I do want to highlight some key concepts in Googlization, since they will have lasting relevance for studies of technology, law, and media for years to come.

Cryptopicon

Dan Solove helped shift the privacy conversation from "Orwell to Kafka" in a number of works over the past decade. Other scholars of surveillance have first used, and then criticized, the concept of the "Panopticon" as a master metaphor for the conformity-inducing pressures of ubiquitous monitoring. Vaidhyanathan observes that monitoring is now so ubiquitous, most people have given up trying to conform. As he observes,

[T]he forces at work in Europe, North America, and much of the rest of the world are the opposite of a Panopticon: they involve not the subjection of the individual to the gaze of a single, centralized authority, but the surveillance of the individual, potentially by all, always by many.
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