Thursday, June 28, 2007

New Network Theory, day 1, session 1

Here I am in the opening plenary, listening to a talk by Siva Vaidhyanathan about Google and its philosophy, and about how talk about Google is characterized by a strongly theological tone. Interesting discussion of how it's philosophy and technology are entangled and don't always work well together. For example, level of user interest strongly influences pagerank, so just based on Google's search algorithms, terms like "holocaust" would bring up pages of holocaust denial sites. Google engineers had to really mess with their own code in oder to get around this.

Then on to Google booksearch, which apparently sucks--well, I think it hardly compares to their regular search, but is it really that terrible? Maybe I just got lucky.

Google video--well, we all know the issues there, I think. Google tells you not to infringe, but they're not responsible if you do and they aren't going to police it (unless threatened with a lawsuit by Viacom).

Interesting influence of pragmatic and technical issues on copyright law enforcement. Search engines couldn't function if those companies couldn't copy the pages into their indexes without asking every time.

And then there are the privacy issues with Google Earth... Issues with the Chinese government over making dissident material available...

Clearly drifting from the "do no evil" position.

Google is seriously understudied. It's not neutral ....not a lot of other stuff--he's speeding up to finish....we need the synoptic rather than panoptic...

We need critical information studies--but the description is what we'd like to say about any field. While I agree with this critique of Google, I don't know that his larger calls are actually anything new or different. Ok, we'll see what the next speakers say.

No comments: