March 23, 2009

A Society Controlled By Google?

In some wonderfully illuminating writing, Katie McGowan reflects on Google's ability to reshape or (re)Make the human ability to think. We use our technology, then our technology uses us. Using Foucault and Lyotard, she wades through the value claimsto get to the internet's ability to supposedly offer up unlimited (and correct) information at our finger tips. The article is worth reading in its entirety, but I've collected some quotes I thought were interesting:
In the instance of the Internet and Google’s search engines, it is our minds that are up for grabs on the auction block.

...‘we are not only what we read…we are how we read’, and is concerned about the Internet’s preference for quick and efficient information gathering at the cost of deep textual analysis and attention spans.

Such shifts in the way we think are not new phenomenon, says Carr. When humans began using the clock on a wide-scale basis, we began to change our internal habits of eating and sleeping based around the times of the clock.

Do these systems of knowledge transmission reflect systems of power and control, or is the Internet as we know it truly a semiotic democracy?

Carr points to this tension between the economics of the mind and that of the Internet. He argues, “The faster we surf across the Web — the more links we click and pages we view — the more opportunities Google and other companies gain to collect information about us and to feed us advertisements

The relationship between knowledge and power then is “indispensable” in their relationship to systems of production. Google’s ability to increase production of knowledge through scientific and mathematic experimentation and algorithms creates a system of power, control, and knowledge in the image of its creators.

According to Lyotard, such “administrative procedures should make individuals ‘want’ what the system needs in order to perform well” (62). By giving us what we “want” through individualization via isolated and controlled environments, we are supporting the performance and economies of the Internet.

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