Een ander in journalistieke stijl geschreven boek. Deze keer van de Amerikaanse hoogleraar in Media Studies Siva Vaidhyanathan.
In dit boek weer veel 'we' dit en 'we' dat en vaag taalgebruik, terwijl de achtergrond en allerlei vooronderstellingen overduidelijk 'USA' zijn. Van de andere kant vergelijkt Vaidhyanathan wel de situatie in de VS met die in bijvoorbeeld Europa en is hij kritisch ten aanzien van de VS.
Vaidhyanathan noemt zichzelf op verschillende plaatsen naïef, omdat hij in het begin zo'n overmatig vertrouwen had in Google en andere technologie. Tja. Wie idealiseert nu een bedrijf als Google? Wie dweept er nu zo met techniek dat hij geen kritische vraagtekens plaatst bij de missie van zo'n bedrijf? Uiteindelijk heeft Vaidhyanathan blijkbaar zijn naïviteit ingezien en komt hij met goede vragen. Maar waarom die naïviteit in de eerste plaats? Zelfs in zijn kritiek op Google blijft toch een soort van bewondering of ontzag doorklinken voor wat het bedrijf bereikt heeft.
Wat winnen we en wat verliezen we wanneer naar de wereld kijken met Google als lens?
"We may see Google as a savior, but it rules like Caesar. The mythology of the Web leads us to assume that it is a wild, ungovernable, and thus ungoverned realm. This could not be further from the truth. There was a power vacuum in the Web not so long ago, but we have invited Google to fill it. Overwhelmingly, we now allow Google to determine what is important, relevant, and true on the Web and in the world. We trust and believe that Google acts in our best interest. But we have surrendered control over the values, methods, and processes that make sense of our information ecosystem."(xi)
[Dit citaat om duidelijk te maken hoe die journalistieke stijl probeert je allerlei opvattingen in de schoenen te schuiven. Maar, nee, ik zie Google niet als redder, en, nee, ik heb Google niet uitgenodigd om op Internet de macht te grijpen, en, nee, ik sta Google ook niet toe om te bepalen wat belangrijk is, en, nee, ik ga er zeker niet van uit dat een Amerikaans bedrijf in mijn belang bezig is. Er wordt van alles veronderstelt om het boek te kunnen schrijven en dat is geen goed uitgangspunt.]
"This book argues that we should influence &emdash; even regulate &emdash; search systems actively and intentionally, and thus take responsibility for how the Web delivers knowledge. We must build the sort of online ecosystem that can benefit the whole world over the long term, not one that serves the short-term interests of one powerful company, no matter how brilliant."(xii)
[Dat bedoel ik. Dat zou heel goed zijn. Maar ik vrees dat dat nooit zal gebeuren want het bedrijfsleven is heilig en regulatie wordt juist door de Amerikanen voortdurend afgewezen. Maar toch goed om te horen dat Vaidhyanathan zijn naïeve geloof in technologie en de markt en het bedrijfsleven grotendeels heeft afgezworen.]
Google maakte het mogelijk op een redelijk betrouwbare manier te zoeken en te vinden op het World Wide Web en daarmee werd de zoekdienst populair en een bekend onderdeel van de hedendaagse cultuur. Dat is wat Vaidhyanathan met de 'Googlization of everything' bedoelt. Google heeft invloed op hoe wij zelf ons gedragen, Google houdt de wereld voor ons in de gaten, en Google maakt steeds meer informatie voor ons toegankelijk. Wat zijn de gevolgen van die Googlisatie precies?
"If I can convince you that we should be concerned about the ease with which we have allowed everything to be Googlized, I hope I can lead you to consider some remedies as well. I am confident we can find ways to live more wisely with Google. My argument comes from a perspective that is too often lost in accounts of the details of technological innovations and their effects on our daily lives: the pursuit of global civic responsibility and the public good. Hopes for a more enlightened future rest in our ability both to recognize the assumptions embedded in our faith in Google and to harness public resources to correct for them. So this book is also overtly political. It calls for a reimagination of what we might build to preserve quality information and deliver it to everyone."(3-4)
"Faith in Google is thus dangerous as the airplane and the automobile have proved dangerous in ways their pioneers did not anticipate in the 1920s.(...)
The dangers arose because we let the automobile companies and airlines dictate both public discourse and policy.
We have designed our environments to serve cars and planes instead of people. Our political systems have been used to favor and subsidize these industries, even as they have been held up as models of free enterprise. And thus we have become dangerously dependent on them. We began to recognize the problems that they posed only in the 1960s and now are all too aware of them. But it’s far too late."(4-5)
In Europa is er meer verzet tegen en kritiek op Google dan in de VS, constateert Vaidhyanathan.
[Tja, dit boek beschrijft redelijk kritisch het gedweep met Google in de VS - in bijna religieuze termen wordt er daar over Google geschreven en gepraat. Maar dat is niet anders dan het gedweep met alle digitale mogelijkheden van zo veel auteurs daar zoals Negroponte. Vaidhyanathan wijst daar gelukkig ook op, al blijft tussen de regels door voortdurend die bewondering voor Google doorklinken.]
"If Google is the dominant way we navigate the Internet, and thus the primary lens through which we experience both the local and the global, then it has remarkable power to set agendas and alter perceptions. Its biases (valuing popularity over accuracy, established sites over new, and rough rankings over more fluid or multidimensional models of presentation) are built into its algorithms. And those biases affect how we value things, perceive things, and navigate the worlds of culture and ideas. In other words, we are folding the interface and structures of Google into our very perceptions. Does anything (or anyone) matter if it (or she) does not show up on the first page of a Google search?"(7)
"This book employs what I call a 'technocultural imagination'. A person who relies on a technocultural imagination asks these sorts of questions: Which members of a society get to decide which technologies are developed, bought, sold, and used? What sorts of historical factors influence why one technology 'succeeds' and another fails? What are the cultural and economic assumptions that influence the ways a technology works in the world, and what unintended consequences can arise from such assumptions?"(8)
"Google is simultaneously very American in its ideologies and explicitly global in its vision and orientation.(...) Google ... explicitly structures and ranks knowledge with a universal vision for itself and its activities. This comprehensiveness generates a tremendous amount of friction around the world &emdash; not least in the People’s Republic of China."(9)
[Nee, echt? ... Dat geldt zo'n beetje voor heel het moderne neoliberale kapitalisme.]
"The book concludes with a call for more explicitly public governance of the Internet. Such governance might take the form of greater privacy guarantees for Web users or strong antitrust scrutiny of companies like Google. The particular forms and instruments of governance are not as important as the general idea that what Google does is too important to be left to one company. But any criticisms and calls for regulation should be tempered with an honest and full account of Google’s remarkable and largely beneficial contributions to our lives. Google figured out how to manage abundance while every other media company in the world was trying to manufacture scarcity, and for that we should be grateful."(11)
[Ik ben benieuwd naar wat Vaidhyanathan over het eerste te melden heeft. Ik ben verbaasd over het laatste: waarom zouden we een bedrijf dankbaar zijn voor iets wat ze in de wereld zetten uit eigenbelang? Het is maar een zoekdienst, verdorie! Google draagt niet méér bij aan mijn leven dan reacties op zoekopdrachten en zo goed zijn die reacties niet eens. Ik vind dat Vaidhyanathan de invloed die Google zou hebben buiten proportie opblaast.]
[Dat taalgebruik is echt ergerlijk: "Google rules the web" "Google dominates the web" en allerlei variaties daar op. Mochten ze willen ... En ook steeds weer die religieuze terminologie: "Google's appeal is almost divine" "the miracles of Google". En de vele bewonderende termen die Vaidhyanathan voor Google over heeft. Hij doet dus in zijn taalgebruik al mee aan het idealiseren van Google, terwijl hij zegt kritisch te zijn op Google. Heel merkwaardige combinatie.]
"Google walked into its regulatory role out of opportunity and necessity. The Internet in the late twentieth century was too global, too messy, and too gestational to justify national or international regulation. Some illiberal states, such as the People’s Republic of China, chose to step in and aggressively perform those regulatory duties either through direct action or through proxies in the quasi-private sector.
In the more liberal world of the United States and &emdash; to a lesser extent &emdash; Europe, a presumption that market forces can best solve problems and build structures so dominated political debate from about 1981 onward that even considering the possibility of state involvement in something so delicate and new as the Internet was implausible. After the recent collapse of the corrupt and disastrous command-and-control economies of Eastern Europe, it was difficult to propose a way of doing things that fell between the poles of triumphant market fundamentalism and incompetent, overbearing state control. Of course the market had survived and thrived. There seemed to be no other mechanism that could deliver positive results to a diverse, connected world. The notion of gentle, creative state involvement to guide processes toward the public good was impossible to imagine, let alone propose.
This vision was known as neoliberalism.
Neoliberalism may have had its purest champions in the last two decades of the twentieth century. But it’s still with us, and harming us, today."(39-40)
Vaidhyanathan heeft het vervolgens over marktfundamentalisme, over 'market failure' en 'public failure'.
"Public failure has had two perverse effects on politics and policy. First, it has corroded faith in state institutions, effectively precluding arguments for their extension or preservation (in the United States, anyway). (...) In the United States any suggestion of regulation or public investment must be couched in the language of the market if it is to be taken seriously.
The second pernicious result of public failure is the rise of assertions of 'corporate responsibility'. As the state has retreated from responsibility to protect common resources, ensure access to opportunities, enforce worker and environmental protection, and provide for the health and general welfare of citizens, private actors have rushed in to claim the moral high ground in the marketplace.
Because market fundamentalism declares that consumers have 'choice' in the market, doing little or no harm becomes just another tactic by which vendors exploit a niche market.
The problem, however, is that corporate responsibility is toothless. Corporations do &emdash; and should do &emdash; what is in the interests of their shareholders, and nothing more. We become aware of the voluntary benevolence of certain firms only when it is in their interest to make that benevolence known."(42-43)
[Het is een wat erg simpele weergave van de ontwikkelingen, maar vooruit. En kritiek op dat marktfundamentalisme en neoliberalisme wordt hier maar mondjesmaat gegeven. Dat is gek, want die context bepaalt toch het eventuele succes van Vaidhyanathan's eigen ideeën en voorstellen verderop.]
"Google has taken advantage of both of these externalities. It has stepped into voids better filled by the public sector, which can forge consensus and protect long-term public interests instead of immediate commercial interests."(44)
"So if we push past the idealistic rhetoric of Google’s officials, we can see that the proper question is whether Google &emdash; or the knowledge ecosystem in general &emdash; is appropriately regulated. In some areas, Google might be regulated too lightly. In others, it might be overly or improperly regulated. There is no general notion of regulation that can apply to such a complex company involved in so many different areas of life and commerce. Sadly, we seem incapable of holding a reasonable debate on this topic because raising the question seems to violate the current standards of polite political discourse."(46)
"The areas in which Google has faced the strongest protest worldwide just happen to be those ventures in which Google has the greatest responsibility for content, what I call 'scan and serve'. In these activities, Google scours the real world, renders real things into digital form, and offers them as part of the Google experience. The two best examples are Google Books, which has generated objections and lawsuits from authors and publishers around the world, and Google Street View, which has sparked actual street protests and government actions. In Street View, Google staff take cameras out around the globe to capture images of specific locations that can be used to enhance Google’s services, such as its map feature. In doing so, Google’s cameras also capture images of individuals and their property. In this case, Google bears great responsibility for creating the digital content as well as hosting and delivering it to Web users. And thus these actions justify the highest level of regulatory scrutiny."(48)
"Over and above these particular ways that Google dominates the nature and function of the World Wide Web, it has a greater, albeit more subtle governance effect. Mostly by example, the company manages to spread the 'Google way' of doing things. It executes a sort of soft power over not just the content of the Web but also users' expectations and habits when dealing with it. Google trains us to think as good Googlers, and it influences other companies to mimic or exceed the core techniques and values of Google. In addition, Google’s success at doing what it does enhances and exploits a particular ideology: techno-fundamentalism. This soft-power mode of governance, one that depends so heavily on the blind faith we place in Google, is the subject of the next three chapters."(50)
"This chapter examines some of the cultural assumptions that underlie the enthusiastic reception of Google and our willingness to trust the company with information about us. First, the chapter examines how we discovered and celebrated Google in its early years and the values that it built on to earn our trust. Then it explores the values that have characterized Google’s practices and people."(52)
[Oe, wat haat ik die schrijfstijl.]
Google maakte het met een zoekalgoritme PageRank en later met het advertentiesysteem AdWords. Op de ondergrond is het een kwestie van 'profiling': het bij elkaar harken van allerlei informatie over mensen om de zoekresultaten en advertenties zo goed mogelijk op die mensen te kunnen afstemmen.
"Google works so well, so simply, and so fast that it inspires trust and faith in its users. As the science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke famously wrote, "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic". And of course trust in magic, or suspension of disbelief, is a central part of the process of embracing the deific. That’s why so much of what we say and write about the experience of Google sounds vaguely religious."(53)
['We'? Ik begrijp dat soort taalgebruik werkelijk niet. Er is juist niets magisch aan een zoekalgoritme of aan een computerprogramma. Je kunt blij zijn met de resultaten, je kunt je verbazen, je kunt bewondering voelen, maar in alle gevallen blijft het een technisch instrument dat je simpelweg kunt gebruiken of niet en dat je op zijn waarde kunt beoordelen aan de hand van bijzonder rationele criteria. Vaidhyanathans religieus getinte taalgebruik suggereert een dimensie die mensen overstijgt, met als gevolg dat ze technische middelen idealiseren, met als verder gevolg dat ze zich kritiekloos opstellen tegenover technische middelen. Ik vind het typisch Amerikaans om zo religieus en kritiekloos over technische middelen te kletsen.]
"Google spreads an eschatological ideology: a belief in fulfillment of prophecy. Those who profess eschatologies are uninterested in origin stories or accounts of miracles: instead, they look ahead. Eschatology is the study of the ultimate destiny of humanity. For Google, that destiny involves the organization and universal accessibility of the world’s information. The road to that destiny is paved with the ideal expressions of techno-fundamentalism. Google believes that the constant application of advanced information technologies &emdash; algorithms, computer code, highspeed networks, and massively powerful servers &emdash; will solve many, if not all, human problems. (...)
Google is both a product of early twenty-first-century American culture and an influence on global culture."(55)
Volgt een beschrijving van het bekend en populair worden van Google vanaf 1998. Google's zoekalgoritme - dat in zijn plaatsing van resultaten rekening houdt met hoe vaak andere websites naar een webpagina linken - riep vertrouwen op, de snelheid waarmee resultaten werden teruggegeven hielp ook.
"We need to pay attention to power &emdash; to biases &emdash; in the system. All information technologies favor some content or users over others. One cannot design a neutral system. To use technologies wisely, we need to grasp the nature of biases and adjust expectations to accommodate or correct for them. So a declaration or description of bias is not an indictment of a system or a firm. A bias is not necessarily bad: it is necessary. A search system cannot rank and choose information without some criteria on which to do so. The Google search algorithms are built to favor certain types of content over others, and to reward the accumulation of acts and behaviors of users. So the biases are rarely direct and obvious."(62)
Natuurlijk is er vertekening: niet alle informatie op het Web wordt doorzocht; niet alle links zijn gelijkwaardig (ze kunnen heel verschillende functies hebben; fundamentele kritiek op een website levert net zo goed een link op als een pagina vol lof over een website); resultaten worden vaak gelokaliseerd; soms wordt er door mensen ingegrepen om ongewenste resultaten te vermijden (bijvoorbeeld als gevolg van mensen / websites die de rankings of weergaves proberen te beïnvloeden op een manier die Google onacceptabel vindt).
[Typisch dat Vaidhyanathan als voorbeeld van een zoekterm 'God' gebruikt. Het is niet toevallig dat hij zo gemakkelijk met religieuze termen strooit in het beschrijven van Google. Onnodig.]
"So the human element in Google’s search business is present and perhaps growing. It’s important to look critically at the people who are making these decisions and the cultural backgrounds from which they have emerged. They are, as might be expected, by and large technicians and technocrats."(67)
"Not surprisingly, those who work for Google tend not to share my concerns. Nor, impressively, do they share in the widespread veneration of the company. In fact, every Google employee I met offered a much more modest, utilitarian vision of the company’s effects on the world than either its critics or its champions express. Google employees for the most part consider themselves to be engineers doing a job, solving a problem or two, generating or perfecting algorithms that make computers manipulate data. Some of the big thinkers at the company, such as Vint Cerf (often called the 'father of the Internet'), see the process of mastering information search as a noble cause but still downplay Google’s influence."(73)
[Maar waarom leert Vaidhyanathan daar dan niet van? Waarom blijft hij bij alles wat hij schrijft toch de 'kampioen van Google'? Ik kan me heel goed voorstellen dat de medewerkers van Google - even los van de managers en de marketingafdeling - een heel wat nuchterder kijk hebben op wat ze daar maken en in de wereld zetten en dat ze hun invloed niet overschatten. Waarom overschat Vaidhyanathan hun invloed dan wel zo? Dat is een belangrijke vraag, vind ik.]
"Google makes much out of its commitment to benevolence. Google officials invoke its famous informal motto, 'Don’t be evil', to explain that the company is worthy of the 'trust bias' of users when it enters sticky situations. It is devoted to 'corporate responsibility', even if the judgment of what constitutes responsible behavior is not so easy to discern. On a page on its website titled 'Corporate Information: Our Philosophy', Google explains the "ten things Google has found to be true". Number 6 on this list is "You can make money without doing evil". The text explains how Google makes money from positioning relevant and unobtrusive advertisements alongside search results. In addition, the page explains, the rank of a particular page in search results is never for sale.
The text says nothing about how Google has contributed to censorship in China or other oppressive countries, how much energy the company uses to run its elaborate system of server farms, or how it punishes certain companies with sudden and inexplicable downgrades in PageRank and others with higher minimum rates for advertising at auction. It says nothing about how Google treats its temporary contract workers or how much it charges employees to use on-site childcare. It takes no account of the access Google provides to sexual content, weaponmaking instructions, debilitating computer viruses, financial scams, or hate speech on the Web. It mentions none of the default settings for the retention of private information and preferences. It says nothing about the distractions, dependencies, and concentrations of power that Google and the Web have unleashed on the world."(74)
[Waarom zou je die mooie kreten die door de afdeling Marketing en Communicatie zijn verzonnen serieus nemen? Het is een motto, meer niet. Of Google als bedrijf ethisch handelt of niet kunnen we moeilijk aan hun eigen beoordeling overlaten.]
"Despite its embrace of benevolence, in other words, Google may sin, just as any of us may sin. However, its sins are our sins, too. One of the main reasons we have faith in Google is because we think that we can do anything we want if we have the right tools. That is the sin of pride. We have a blind faith in technology: techno-fundamentalism."(75)
[Nou, ik niet, hoor ...]
"The particular kind of hubris that energizes Google is the notion that you can always invent something to solve the problem that the last invention created. That’s techno-fundamentalism. It’s an extreme form of the pragmatic orientation that, as we’ve seen, lies behind the acceptance of Google as the world’s primary search engine. Techno-fundamentalism assumes not only the means and will to triumph over adversity through gadgets and schemes but also the sense that invention is the best of all possible methods of confronting problems.
At the beginning of the twenty-first century, we pay a heavy price for techno-fundamentalism. We build new and wider highways under the mistaken belief that they will ease congestion. We rush to ingest pharmaceuticals that are no more effective than a placebo at alleviating our ills. We make investment and policy decisions based on principles such as the so-called Moore’s law, which predicts that computer processing power will double every eighteen months, as if such progress had its own momentum, independent of specific decisions by firms and engineers. Perhaps most dangerously, we neglect real problems with the structures and devices we depend on to preserve our lives, as we did for decades with the levees that failed to protect the poorest residents of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. And now it seems techno-fundamentalism stands as the operative ideology in defense and security policy. We need not depend on messy diplomacy or credible military threats to curb the activities of hostile states. We have Star Wars.
The faith that technology can redeem all of our sins and fix all of our problems is the ultimate hubris. There are many examples in human history in which techno-fundamentalism has led to great suffering."(76-77)
Vaidhyanathan beschrijft hier allerlei problemen die hij ziet aan de benadering van Google. Het allereerste en omvangrijkste probleem is dat Google zich weinig gelegen laat liggen aan de privacy van haar gebruikers.
"In theory, Google always gives the victim of exposure the opportunity to remove troubling information from Google’s collection. But the system is designed to favor maximum collection, maximum exposure, and the permanent availability of everything. One can only manage one’s global electronic profile through Google if one understands how the system works &emdash; and that there is a system at all. Google is a system of almost universal surveillance, yet it operates so quietly that at times it’s hard to discern.
"You might have engaged with Google and donated your data trail to it under the provisions of an early version of the policy, only to discover that Google changed the policy while you were not looking."(85)
"Google’s data-retention policies have come under significant scrutiny, especially in Europe. Most of the changes in its privacy policies in recent years have resulted from pressure by European policy officials. The United States government has offered consumers and citizens no help in these matters. In fact, it has acted to erode privacy."(87)
Maar het kan ook nog subtieler: de standaardinstellingen bepalen voor een groot deel wat iemand weggeeft en die zijn altijd in het voordeel van Google.
"When Mayer and others at Google speak about the practices and policies governing their private-data collection and processing (otherwise known as privacy policies), they never discuss the power of defaults. They emphasize only the freedom and power that users have over their data. Celebrating freedom and user autonomy is one of the great rhetorical ploys of the global information economy. We are conditioned to believe that having more choices &emdash; empty though they may be &emdash; is the very essence of human freedom. But meaningful freedom implies real control over the conditions of one’s life. Merely setting up a menu with switches does not serve the interests of any but the most adept, engaged, and well-informed."(89)
"Privacy is an unfortunate term, because it carries no sense of its own customizability and contingency. When we complain about infringements of privacy, what we really demand is some measure of control over our reputations. Who should have the power to collect, cross-reference, publicize, or share information about us? If I choose to declare my romantic status or sexual orientation on Facebook, I may still consider that I am preserving my privacy because I assume I am managing the release of that information in a context I think I understand. Privacy refers to the terms of control over information, not the nature of the information we share."(93)
"We learn early on that there are public matters and private matters, and that we manage information differently inside our homes and outside them. Yet that distinction fails to capture the true complexity of the privacy tangle. Because it’s so hard to define and describe what we mean by privacy and because it so often seems futile to resist mass surveillance, we need better terms, models, metaphors, and strategies for controlling our personal information. Here’s one way to begin to think more effectively about the issue."(93-94)
Vaidhyanathan onderscheidt vijf niveaus ('interfaces') waarop we moeten leren / de mogelijkheid moeten krijgen om onze reputatie te beschermen. De vijfde 'interface' is die tussen een persoon en de openbaarheid die tegenwoordig vooral via Internet verloopt. Het schokkende is dat veel mensen er niet mee blijken te zitten om anderen te kleineren of hun reputatie kapot te maken, terwijl het tegelijkertijd voor de betrokken persoon onmogelijk is om zaken te verwijderen - vaak ook nog eens uit naam van de 'vrijheid van meningsuiting'.
[Je merkt aan de voorbeelden en de genoemde personen en auteurs meteen dat Vaidhyanathan het hier voornamelijk over de VS heeft waar het bedrijfsleven zich al helemaal niets gelegen laat liggen aan de privacy van personen en van overheidswege veel minder beperkingen krijgt opgelegd dan in Europa zou gebeuren.]
"Small changes, such as the adoption of better privacy policies by companies like Google and Amazon, are not going to make much difference in the long run. So the only remedy is widespread political action in the public interest, much as we had in the 1970s. Passivity in the face of these threats to dignity and personal security will only invite the deployment of more unaccountable technologies of surveillance. The challenge is too large and the risks too great."(97-98)
Volgt een sectie over Google's Street View en alle commotie die het met zich mee bracht. Hoe Google met kritiek omgaat?
"Responding to the initial criticisms of Street View, Google defended the service by saying &emdash; as it always does &emdash; that if anyone reported an image to be troubling, embarrassing, or revealing of personal information such as faces or vehicle license plates, Google would be happy to remove or smudge the image. But, as usual, the defaults were set for maximum exposure."(98-99)
Met andere woorden: het probleem wordt geindividualiseerd en op dat niveau worden oplossingen aangedragen, maar de algemene principes die Google hanteert in zoiets als Street View worden niet ter discussie gesteld.
"Today Google Street View, perhaps the most pervasive example of the Googlization of us, barely causes a gasp in the United States. That was not the case in Canada, parts of Europe, or in Japan."(101)
"Wherever Street View has been launched, a company spokesperson has repeated that "privacy is very important to Google" without ever defining exactly what the company means by privacy or addressing what a culture considers private or sacrosanct. The company always reiterates that individuals may opt out and request that an image be removed; it does not, however, explain that such a request takes at least three steps of effort and that several hours, or even days, may elapse before the offending images disappear from Google Street View."(105)
"As always, the technologically proficient and aware suffer little harm and gain greatly from the convenience of Google Street View. Those who are not proficient, perhaps by choice but perhaps because of age, disability, or lack of means, are much more vulnerable under such a system."(106)
"The tension between universalism and particularism in the age of rapid globalization is well documented. It’s clear after decades of argument that ideologies such as market fundamentalism, liberalism (with its imperative for free speech), techno-fundamentalism, and free trade are no longer simply 'Western' &emdash; if they ever were. It’s too simple (and ahistorical) to tag such ideologies as merely imperialistic. But it is true that they are universalizing. They carry strong assumptions that people everywhere have the same needs, values, and desires &emdash; even if they don’t yet know it themselves.
Cultural imperialism has become a useless cliché. The academic cultural-imperialism thesis is in severe need of revision.(...)
The texts, signs, and messages that flow through global communications networks do not carry a clear and unambiguous celebration of ideas and ideologies we might lazily label Western, such as consumerism, individualism, and secularism. These commercial pipelines may instead carry texts that overtly criticize and threaten the tenets of global capitalism, such as albums by the leftist rock band Rage against the Machine, films by Michael Moore, and books by Naomi Klein. Time Warner does not care if the data inscribed on the compact discs it sells simulates the voice of Madonna or of Ali Farka Touré. What flows from North to South does not matter as much as how it flows, how much revenue the flows generate, and who uses and reuses them. In this way, the Googlization of us has profound consequences. It’s not so much the ubiquity of Google’s brand that is troubling, dangerous, or even interesting: it’s that Google’s defaults and ways of doing spread and structure ways of seeking, finding, exploring, buying, and presenting that influence (though they do not control) habits of thought and action. These default settings, these nudges, are expressions of an ideology."(109-110)
"Google’s great trick is to make everyone feel satisfied with the possibility of choice, without actually exercising it to change the system’s default settings. But as I show in the next chapter, for people living in illiberal political contexts, different vulnerabilities exist."(114)
Velen willen zichtbaar zijn op Google, gevonden worden op Google, een goede reputatie hebben op Google, en passen zich aan aan de eisen die Google stelt. Dat is de ene kant. De andere kant is dat er mensen / groepen / autoriteiten zijn die zich juist verzetten tegen het beleid van Google.
"Thus Google is struggling to maintain its vision and principles while itself bending slightly to the wills of states, institutions, and communities in a diverse world. And increasingly, the company devoted to liberating information and connecting the world has to deal with life-and-death consequences of its investments and activities."(117)
De ingewikkelde relaties tussen Google en de Volksrepubliek China worden beschreven.
[Vaidhyanathan is wel erg gemakkelijk em ongenuanceerd over China - "a brutal regime"(119), dat is zijn uitgangspunt -, geen enkel begrip van zijn kant voor China's censuur en beperkingen van Internetvrijheid. Ik vind dit een typische 'Vrije Westen'-benadering. Maar maak eerst maar eens duidelijk hoe het met de onderdrukking en de mensenrechten in je eigen land gesteld is in plaats van zo gemakkelijk over vrijheid en repressie te praten, dat is met name ook een heel interessante oefening voor Amerikanen. Voor veel westerlingen is China met zijn vele inwoners trouwens alleen maar een interessante markt die ze op hun westerse manier willen plunderen.]
Over de rol van ICT in de democratiseringsgolf van 1989.
"Recent events in China demonstrate how the complex relations of technology with oppressive regimes and liberation movements play out, and the ways in which technological innovations, such as those offered by Google, function in collaboration and complicity with both the forces of repression and the forces of liberation."(124)
"The standard views of China vacillate between a rising and dynamic economic giant and a brutal totalitarian society that forces its citizens to curb their associations and imaginations. Neither of these models is accurate. China has a thriving market economy whose macroeconomic and large-scale investment policies are significantly guided by the central state. It has a state apparatus that is just as corrupt and incompetent as it is vicious &emdash; although it displays its brutal effectiveness without hesitation when it needs to, as events in Tibet in 2008 demonstrated. China is still authoritarian, tolerating little overt dissent over certain policies, such as treatment of dissident religious groups, pornography, its efforts to destroy Tibetan culture, or the protests in Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989. Yet despite these repressive and restrictive measures, China has plugged itself into to the world’s social, economic, and technological flows. It has more Internet users than any other country, despite the fact that only 16 percent of the population was online regularly as of 2009.
The style of state censorship in China thus is complex. There is no 'Great Firewall', as many of those reporting on China have asserted. China’s Internet filtering and blocking policy is not sturdy and impenetrable: it’s fluid and situational, more like the dystopian model described in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World than that of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. Distraction and consumerism crowd out meaningful dissent and troublesome expression. China has ways of blocking, however imperfectly, most of the sites and messages to which it objects, but for most people in China, site censorship affects daily life very little."(124-125)
"The application of Internet technology in China shows an inevitable interplay between complicity with repression and the potential for liberation. Contrary to the assertions of techno-fundamentalists, such technology does not inherently further either liberal democratic or neoliberal economic and political ends. There is no 'Great Firewall' in China, but neither has Internet technology led to the ends that its proponents predicted. China certainly embraces Internet technology, but it uses it in its own way."(128)
[Het is zo gemakkelijk om China repressief te noemen. Vergelijk het met wat de NSA, de FBI en zo doen binnen de VS en het beeld wordt heel wat genuanceerder. Ook de VS vallen dissidenten lastig. Veel van de onderdrukkende trucs tijdens rechtszaken en erbuiten worden ook door de VS en andere landen uitgehaald - zodanig dat iemand zichzelf niet eens kan verdedigen wanneer hij in staat van beschuldiging wordt gesteld. En censuur is tegenwoordig in allerlei landen aan de orde van de dag, zoals Vaidhyanathan verderop zelf beschrijft.]
"As I have stated above, measuring by scale or effect, it’s improper to compare the Chinese efforts to restrict the flow of information with those of the United States and other democracies. But it’s a mistake to single out China as the only significant place where Web censorship is a matter of policy."(134)
[Het is gewoon in alle landen zo dat een bedrijf met de wetten van die landen te maken heeft - en meestal passen de bedrijven zich aan die wetten aan, ook al delen ze de achterliggende opvattingen in die wetten niet. Er moet tenslotte winst gemaakt worden. Je zou ook kunnen weigeren je vanwege repressieve die wetten in een bepaald land te vestigen natuurlijk. Dat gebeurt zelden. Kapitalisten houden niet zo van morele principes.]
"According to Habermas, early examples of public spheres emerged in Europe soon after the rise of nation-states and a commercial middle class in the eighteenth century. The tragedy of the public sphere, Habermas argues, is that its core institutions, such as newspapers and broadcasting, became so rampantly commercialized in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries that they failed to support the goals of keeping a republic informed and engaged. When it comes to the Web and the influence of Google on the Web, we can see a case study in which Habermas’s narrative of the collapse of the public sphere has unfolded in a very short time."(136)
"In Habermas’s story of the emergence and deflation of the public sphere, both nationalism (with the rise of the nation-state) and capitalism play a major role. Concern for the fate of the nation or local affairs, he argues, drove people to assemble and deliberate. A global public sphere, however, is necessarily cosmopolitan in temperament. Therefore, members of a global public sphere must culturally cohere in some way. Either they must share a language, or they must share a value system and a common notion of truth and validity. We are far from having such a system, and it’s not clear that it’s in everyone’s interest to create one."(137)
"Linguistic differences are, or course, another barrier to the creation of a genuinely global civil society. Here, too, although the Internet connects along certain axes, it divides along others."(141)
"Linguistic diversity does not explain everything, of course. As of 2009, most of the major Web search services worked better in English and the languages of Western Europe than they did in other languages. In addition, regardless of the local language of the search engine, the legacy strength of English-language websites (the greater traffic they receive as a result of having been up longer) biases most search engines in favor of English sites. The world, and thus the set of markets that promise greatest growth, is hardly biased toward English and is highly diverse. Web-search and portal companies certainly understand this. So it’s clear that linguistic diversification is central to the long-term success of any Web company."(142)
"Although the Internet may have great potential to unite the world, it has done so unevenly over the past twenty years. Rather than act as a membrane that connects everyone with everyone and everyone with every piece of knowledge equally, the Internet allows for punctuated connections. It succeeds best at uniting diasporic communities and at forging political alliances both within and across borders. Google’s role in these phenomena has been anything but simple. In its search functions, Google has increased the 'tribalization' of the Web, letting Dutch football fans and people of Maori descent find each other and reinforce their shared opinions. It fractures the world in new ways even as it unites it in other new ways. One aspect of global civil society, what we might call 'local-culture movements', has benefited greatly from this simultaneous aggregation and disaggregation of people and places. It demonstrates how global civil society and the potential global public sphere conflict rather than cohere."(145)
Over de toegang tot kennis die vaak ook een toegang tot macht vormt. Welke gevolgen heeft Internet voor de wereld van boeken? En welke rol speelt Google daar in in zijn streven naar een voor iedereen toegankelijke universele bibliotheek van alle boeken op aarde - door ze in te scannen en doorzoekbaar te maken: het Google Books Project? Dit hoofdstuk vertelt over dat project en alle problemen die daar bij opdoken, zoals de toestemming van auteurs, copyright-kwesties, de kwaliteit van de scans, de monopoliepositie van Google, de commerciële uitbating van de scans, en zo verder.
[Het verhaal gaat hier vrijwel uitsluitend over de situatie in de VS. Nog verder reikende problemen - bijvoorbeeld in het Engels vertaalde werken van auteurs uit andere landen - worden niet besproken.]
"It dodged the legal and philosophical questions at the heart of the dispute, and it set up a bold new system for book research and distribution that, instead of promoting access to knowledge, raised even more questions: the lack of competition, increased monopolization, and the increasing privatization of the information ecosystem. (...)
Google Books has failed to live up to any of the exaggerated claims that its early proponents made for it. Not only has it failed to deliver on its promises, but along the way it has disrupted the copyright system and the economy of publishing."(152)
"As I finished the editing and updating of this book in August 2010, Judge Denny Chin still had under consideration the approval of the class-action settlement of the case between the publishers (and some authors) and Google. If Judge Chin approves the settlement, Google will be in a position to offer for sale millions of digital files of out-of-print books published in the twentieth century. In addition, Google would offer access to many millions of books that were never protected by copyright or whose copyright has expired. The settlement would facilitate a remarkable change in the relationship among books, readers, publishers, authors, libraries, and Google. Access to so many great works would be greater than anyone imagined just ten years ago. But American libraries would be commercialized, essentially hosting Google vending machines on their premises. Publishers and authors might make a little more money than they did before. Occasionally, a long-lost work might emerge to be a surprise best seller. But Google would assert itself as the mediator of the accessibility and affordability for this vast collection. No other firm could realistically hope to mount a competing service. Readers would seamlessly shift between the safe, anonymous, republican space of the public library and the commercialized environment of Google without a warning that their reading and browsing habits would be tracked. And, perhaps most costly, we might never be willing to design and fund high-quality, durable, publicly run, noncommercial services with the mission of spreading knowledge rather than selling books or placing advertisements."(154)
"The Google Books project is one of the most revolutionary information policy changes in a century or more. If approved, it would alter how we think about copyright, culture, books, history, access, and libraries. Yet the public has had no say in how it will be constructed and run. No public policymaking body oversaw its creation. No legislature considered the notion of creating what amounts to a compulsory-license system (through which the copyright holder is never asked beforehand if she agrees to the copying; instead the copier may assume the right to copy) to allow a company to scan copyrighted books by the millions."(155)
"Since then, it has become clear that publishers were most offended by the prospect of a wealthy corporation free riding on their content to offer a commercial and potentially lucrative service without any regard to compensation or quality control. The publishers wanted a piece of the revenue &emdash; and some control over the manner of display and search results."(159)
"Companies such as Google should always do what is best for them. But libraries, and especially university libraries, have a different, more altruistic mission and clear ethical obligations. From the beginning, Google Books has seemed to be a major example of corporate welfare. Libraries at public universities all over this country (including the one that employs me) have spent many billions of dollars collecting these books. Now libraries are offering these books to one company that is cornering the market on online access. They accepted Google’s specifications for the service uncritically, without concern for user confidentiality, image preservation, image quality, search prowess, metadata standards, or long-term sustainability. They chose the expedient way, rather than the best way, to extend their collections. They have been complicit in centralizing and commercializing access to knowledge under a single corporate umbrella.
For the first time, elements of library collections will be offered for sale through a private contractor. Perhaps this change is only a matter of degree, but perhaps it is instead a major mission shift. Ultimately, we have to ask, is this really the best possible system for extending access to knowledge?"(164)
"Within weeks of the announcement of Google’s plan to scan library collections, I concluded that legally, politically, and practically, Google was not the right agent for the job. Instead, I argued, libraries should pool their efforts and resources to accomplish such massive digitization and access projects themselves."(169)
"Privileging internal text searching over more established forms of book indexing is troublesome. Relying on Google’s engineers to do the work that librarians do is an even bigger mistake. Searching inside the text of books is rarely a better way to search than searching among books. Books are discrete documents that operate with internal cohesion more than external linkages. They are not, in David Weinberger’s phrase, 'small pieces loosely joined', nor should they be. Their value is in their comprehensiveness. Printed and bound books are examples of a portable, reliable technology that has worked extremely well for more than five hundred years. No one has yet shown that searches for 'key words in context' have much value to readers, researchers, or writers."(171)
Omdat je informatie gemakkelijk via Internet kunt opzoeken, hoef je niets te onthouden. Is dat een goed ding? En omdat je zo véél informatie kunt vinden is een andere vraag: hoe is de kwaliteit ervan? hoe wordt er voor ons gefilterd? Bijvoorbeeld door Google.
"Google is not just our memory machine; it is also our forgetting machine, because it filters abundance for us."(177)
"Because we have for centuries struggled against the inertia of forgetting, we can’t easily comprehend the momentum and risks of remembering."(179)
Ondanks bepaalde overeenkomsten in de vragen die ze stellen over de invloed die Internet op mensen heeft, is Vaidhyanathan het niet eens met het technologische determinisme bij Carr en Cascio.
"Overusing or abusing any tool or technique can leave you numb or foggy. So it’s not surprising that people report increased distraction in their lives after adopting technologies that have raised our cultural metabolism. But in making too strong a claim for deep, biological change effected by technology, Carr commits the error of technological determinism."(181)
"Cascio, though, commits an error similar to Carr’s. Both assume that technology necessarily and unidirectionally molds us. Cascio assumes that technologies lead us to something certain: the future is already determined, and he knows what it will look like. He is, after all, a futurist by trade. He assumes that technologies drive our abilities and desires, instead of the other way around or, more accurately, in concert with us. According to Cascio’s brand of technological determinism, we are always getting better, always rising, never polluting our world or poisoning or fattening or numbing ourselves into submission."(181-182)
"The consequences of allowing Google to filter the abundance of information for us by giving it information about us include a narrowing of our focus on the things that matter to each of us and the potential fracturing of our collective knowledge. The effects of Google’s increasingly powerful mediation between us and the knowledge that we seek is particularly clear in the domain that I care most about: higher education."(182)
Vaidhyanathan maakt zich dus met name zorgen over de personalisatie door Google: mensen zien alleen nog de informatie die bevestigt wat ze al zijn, 'het andere' komen ze niet meer tegen.
"That 'narrowcasting' of filtered information could be very efficient. If you know what you want, you might get it faster, with the right results higher on the page. It also allows Google to better customize advertisements to you over time and build a richer profile of its best users, those who use multiple Google services. However, if search results are more customized, you are less likely to stumble on the unexpected, the unknown, the unfamiliar, and the uncomfortable. Your Web search experience will reinforce whatever affiliations, interests, opinions, and biases you already possess."(183)
"This trend toward customization will be great for shopping, but not so great for learning, especially at the college and university level."(184)
Kritiek op Jeff Jarvis' What would Google do?
"Through its voracious efforts to include more of everything under its brand, Google has fostered a more seamless, democratized, global, cosmopolitan information ecosystem. Yet it has simultaneously contributed to the steady commercialization of higher education and the erosion of standards of information quality."(186)
"At a time when cost pressures on universities and their students have spiked and public support for universities has waned, Google has capitalized on this public failure, this erosion or retreat of state commitment. The ubiquity of Google on campus has generated both opportunity and anxiety. Unfortunately, universities have allowed Google to take the lead in and set the terms of the relationship."(186)
"For decades, American universities have been instructed to behave more like businesses. Google is an example of a stunningly successful firm behaving as much like a university as it can afford to."(187)
Over Google's populariteitscriterium in het ordenen van zoekresultaten - dat lijkt op een soort van citatenindex:
"Of course, the practice of determining the value of a work by its appearances in others’ citations (bibliometrics) is a controversial and troublesome topic within academic culture. Widely used in the sciences for decades, the expansion of the principle to measure the presumed 'impact' or 'value' of scholarship within the humanities has generated widespread criticism, because much of the best work is published in books, rather than in a stable set of indexable journals."(188)
"Paradoxically, the very reliance on the principles of peer review within Google and reliance on the principles of peer review in the Google PageRank algorithm have undermined an appreciation for distinctions between information sources &emdash; at least among university students."(189)
Vaidhyanathan is het eens met de teneur in Tara Brabazon's boek The University of Google: Education in the (Post)information Age.
"Even if Google links students to millions of documents heretofore inaccessible, it does nothing to teach them how to use the information they discover or even to distinguish between true or false, dependable or sketchy, polemical or analytical. Because simple Web searches favor simple (and well-established) websites, students are unlikely to discover peer-reviewed scholarship unless they actively select the obscure Google Scholar service; and even then, they must hope that their institution has access agreements with content providers that will allow them to read the full text of the articles they find, because much academic work is confined to paywalled sites.(...)
The production of sound arguments, interpretations, and analyses has become more of a challenge in the age of constant connectivity and information torrents."(191)
Over Google Scholar:
"However, according to academic librarians, Google Scholar has been constructed with Google’s usual high level of opacity and without serious consideration of the needs and opinions of scholars. The major criticisms include the lack of transparency about how the engine ranks and sorts works, the fact that collections are uneven and results undependable, and the problem that the search interface lacks the detail librarians and scholars demand to find the precise article they need. As with most of Google’s services, the greatest strengths of the service &emdash; its breadth of coverage and ease of use &emdash; generate its greatest flaws: lack of depth and precision. So the service is clearly a boon to students and lay researchers but of limited utility to scholars."(192-193)
"Because North American publishers have been most aggressive in including their works in Google Scholar (or perhaps because Google has been most aggressive in attracting North American publishers), many works in languages other than English fail to show up on the first few pages of Google Scholar searches. German literature and social science research, for instance, are heavily underrepresented in search results."(193)
"We should not let one rich, powerful company set the research and spending agenda for the academy at large simply because we &emdash; unlike Google &emdash; are strapped for cash. The longterm costs and benefits should dominate the conversation. We should not jump at the promise of quick returns or even quick relief."(197-198)
"... amassing vast, infinite collections of information ultimately gets us no closer to wisdom."(199)
"Clearly, we should not trust Google to be the custodian of our most precious cultural and scientific resources. We should not assume that Google, with its focus on delivering what we want &emdash; or think we want &emdash; will deliver what we actually need. We made a grand mistake over the past few years. We were relieved to have a big, rich, brave company, one that proclaimed it would not 'be evil', to assume responsibility for the digitization and distribution of many of the most precious intellectual and cultural resources our species has produced."(202)
Een 'Human Knowledge Project' is nodig.
[Nogal naïef, dat voorstel dat Vaidhyanathan hier uitwerkt. Het steunt op Openbare Bilbiotheken vanwege de laagdrempeligheid, maar die bibliotheken zijn juist aan het verdwijnen of staan onder druk omdat politici denken dat Internet + Google genoeg is. Niemand die er in wil investeren, de Staat niet, commerciële of particuliere beleggers al helemaal niet. Kortom: ik zie niet hoe dit ooit van de grond zou kunnen komen in een tijd waarin de politiek regulatie door de Staat te duur vindt of vanuit neoliberale opvattingen domweg onjuist.]