<nettime> Google is polluting the internet

Flick Harrison flick at flickharrison.com
Mon Nov 8 17:17:56 PST 2010

I can't argue with the idea that index-based research leads to
shallower understanding in some ways. Although, to think of the
question atemporally (1), the search engine is a necessity to keeping
up a current understanding of anything, rather than being in the
rear-view mirror all the time (2).

And, really, the Google is partly powered by DMOZ.org, which is
in fact a subject-classification engine that in some ways is at
the heart of google's process (3). The Open Directory doesn't link
to "knowledge" specifically, but to websites in general, where,
presumably, some knowledge is contained; starting at DMOZ instead
of Google Search might give a learner some of the advantages Swift
describes, ad-free to boot!

Moreover, ad-pollution can be shut off as easily as turning off a
lightswitch, by using Firefox with Adblock installed (3). I've had
people accuse me of stealing by using adblock - getting the web
without paying penance for it - but I don't take that seriously.

More sinister and challenging than ad pollution is the notion that
Google isn't like a library which lets a search for knowledge be its
own reward; Google demands data from the learner in exchange for
information, which could be innocent enough if not for the example
of the search engine's relations with China - restricting content
and releasing user data, either by espionage or by design - and
perhaps lesser-publicized deals with other dictatorships or free-world
intelligence agencies.

This is not to mention Bing, which could, for all we know, be an arm
of the Chinese state, concocted to replace Google's renegade Western
influence with an in-house operation. This presents an even-more
sinister threat-model to knowledge than any commercial enterprise: the
central cataloguing of everyone's reading habits.

It's surprising how easily we succumb to giving up our rights by
point-and-click - when you consider how hard the US Librarians fought
against the Patriot Act when it was made mandatory to hand over
Library records on demand, and even informing anyone about such a
demand was a felony. Unsure of even how to retain counsel under such a
threatening gag order, librarians nevertheless threw themselves into
the fight and managed to change the law (5). They understood that
privacy was vital to the research process, so that the process itself
didn't become evidence against the researcher when they least expected

Yet every Gmail user lets google compile such a record, every time
they log in and do a search.

-Flick Harrison

1 - Sterling, http://boingboing.net/2010/02/26/bruce-sterling-expla-1.html 

2 - http://thinkexist.com/quotation/the_past_went_that-a-way-when_faced_with_a/152841.html

3 - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dmoz#Content_users

4 -  Interesting discussion webbing out from http://adblockplus.org/blog/ads-dont-generate-money

5 - http://www.google.ca/search?q=librarians+patriot+act+lawyer+Ann+Beeson&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&aq=t&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a


* FLICK's WEBSITE & BLOG: http://www.flickharrison.com 

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