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A Hard Place: Google and the Government

February 11, 2008

Once upon a course, in Communications and Culture, I learned some interesting tidbits of information through my professor’s regular presentation of Google search on the classroom computer. The results of his habit of obtaining information on demand were quite intriguing. Using Google’s search box in order to spontaneously supplement some tidbit fact he had just given the class was frequently the cause of my learning more and more about the information that Google produced. Whether I understood it all or not, i knew that it could produce mounds of information from the insertion of one or two words into the search field. I learned so much just from the 20-30 word mash-up descriptions underneath the resulting links, that I may have been a valid contender on Jeopardy after a semester in this class.

What is seemingly valued more than anything else America (and some may refute this perspective), is the freedom and ability to have wide access to any and all information world wide (web). Americans place high value on their right to know and be informed whether they are considering the consumption of E! News and the RedEye to be actual news or scouring archives that holds the history of government records, current corporate law, or getting a specific perspective on how the 2008 President Campaign is turning into Survival of the Richest. The idea that news has just become a speculation according to an individual or group perspective is certainly not far fetched to Americans, and so much of our “news” has also become entertainment which is also vital in American culture.

Battelle raises a crucial topic that I first encountered back in Communications and Culture: The China Question. The worlds different governments are in place to control society, creating laws and taking action to protect it and keep it in order. The idea that the US government can see (or hear) our private lives is extremely unearthing but the idea that it can also change existing laws (even) the constitution to do so just seems plain evil. The term Big Brother arises as an epithet of a nasty bully, rather than a protector. This is the same light in which I thought of Google when I first witnessed the returns Google had for “Tank man” and gathered information about how the Chinese government banned sites that were relevant to a rival government or other ideas that were unacceptable in China. What is the worth of information to the Chinese people? Apparently, a value that is applied negatively to the Chinese people according to their government. Otherwise why would they ban headlines and information about events that had religious and cultural implications?

The perspective that Battelle eludes to as Google playing the “Big Brother” role is quite interesting. Aside from trying to figure out the political stance of the writer, one could also argue that Battelle posed good ol’ Google has a silent bully who pretends to do what is the “right thing” rather than fighting for the political freedoms of others outside of America and conforming to some obscene government policies in order to avoid forfeiting a profitable market. Since search has become such an immense part of the internet a technology that is abundantly used in America, would it be fair to make reference to “the right” to search? Couldn’t search provide elements of liberty, life, and the pursuit of happiness? It is interesting to draw difference of access between Americans who have a wide gap of digital and internet knowledge amongst American citizens and the access to that of the Chinese who seek the same human liberties.

jg

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One comment

  1. Very Cool Blog.
    Keep up the good work.
    John



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