Category Archives: sivavaidhyanathan

the googlization of everything: a public writing begins

We’re very excited to announce that Siva’s new Google book site, produced and hosted by the Institute, is now live! In addition to being the seed of what will likely be a very important book, I’ll bet that over time this will become one of the best Google-focused blogs on the Web.
The Googlization of Everything: How One Company is Disrupting Culture, Commerce, and Community… and Why We Should Worry.
The book:

…a critical interpretation of the actions and intentions behind the cultural behemoth that is Google, Inc. The book will answer three key questions: What does the world look like through the lens of Google?; How is Google’s ubiquity affecting the production and dissemination of knowledge?; and how has the corporation altered the rules and practices that govern other companies, institutions, and states?

The experiment:

I have never tried to write a book this way. Few have. Writing has been a lonely, selfish pursuit for my so far. I tend to wall myself off from the world (and my loved ones) for days at a time in fits and spurts when I get into a writing groove. I don’t shave. I order pizza. I grumble. I ignore emails from my mother.
I tend to comb through and revise every sentence five or six times (although I am not sure that actually shows up in the quality of my prose). Only when I am sure that I have not embarrassed myself (or when the editor calls to threaten me with a cancelled contract – whichever comes first) do I show anyone what I have written. Now, this is not an uncommon process. Closed composition is the default among writers. We go to great lengths to develop trusted networks of readers and other writers with whom we can workshop – or as I prefer to call it because it’s what the jazz musicians do, woodshed our work.
Well, I am going to do my best to woodshed in public. As I compose bits and pieces of work, I will post them here. They might be very brief bits. They might never make it into the manuscript. But they will be up here for you to rip up or smooth over.
That’s the thing. For a number of years now I have made my bones in the intellectual world trumpeting the virtues of openness and the values of connectivity. I was an early proponent of applying “open source” models to scholarship, journalism, and lots of other things.
And, more to the point: One of my key concerns with Google is that it is a black box. Something that means so much to us reveals so little of itself.
So I would be a hypocrite if I wrote this book any other way. This book will not be a black box.

siva podcast on the googlization of libraries

We’re just a couple of days away from launching what promises to be one of our most important projects to date, The Googlization of Everything, a weblog where Siva Vaidhyanathan (who’s a fellow here) will publicly develop his new book, a major critical examination of the Google behemoth. As an appetizer, check out this First Monday podcast conversation with Siva on the subject of Google’s book activities (mp3, transcript).
An excerpt:

Q: So what’s the alternative? Who are the major players, what are the major policy points?
SIVA: I think this is an important enough project where we need to have a nationwide effort. We have to have a publicly funded effort. Guided, perhaps led by the Library of Congress, certainly a consortium of public university libraries could do just as well to do it.
We’re willing to do these sorts of big projects in the sciences. Look at how individual states are rallying billions of dollars to fund stem cell research right now. Look at the ways the United States government, the French government, the Japanese government rallied billions of dollars for the Human Genome Project out of concern that all that essential information was going to be privatized and served in an inefficient and unwieldy way.
So those are the models that I would like to see us pursue. What saddens me about Google’s initiative, is that it’s let so many people off the hook. Essentially we’ve seen so many people say, “Great now we don’t have to do the digital library projects we were planning to do.” And many of these libraries involved in the Google project were in the process of producing their own digital libraries. We don’t have to do that any more because Google will do it for us. We don’t have to worry about things like quality because Google will take care of the quantity.
And so what I would like to see? I would like to see all the major public universities, public research universities, in the country gather together and raise the money or persuade Congress to deliver the money to do this sort of thing because it’s in the public interest, not because it’s in Google’s interest. If it really is this important we should be able to mount a public campaign, a set of arguments and convince the people with the purse strings that this should be done right.