Notes on Media

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Just another weblog. Lasse Bo Timmermann.

Internet Politics

Who Google is according to Google
Google’s announcement to no longer support the state imposed filtering of the Chinese version of their search engine has created quite a buzz recently. Despite many tech bloggers, who are celebrating Google’s step as a heroic act for freedom and human rights, there are some more serious thoughts around as well. An interesting article on the issue, titled The Google Republic has been published by Die Zeit. They point to the fact that Google’s step can be seen as an example of companies applying pressure on nation-states to enforce their goals. This step that can be very well related to the activities undertaken by United Fruit Company (Chiquita) to achieve their goals in Central America and lead to the term Banana Republics – therefore The Google Republic. Siva Vaidhyanathan’s argument is even more forthright in that he writes that Google governs the Internet, just because no state is willing to take that role. He further states that

[o]ne could read this showdown (as I do) as a classic international power conflict between a major traditional state and a new, virtual state: the Googlenet.

Thus, the step Google took is probably more than just clever PR or the heroic support of the human rights. It more seems as if it is the first move towards a new kind of politics. The rise of Google to the status of a quasi-state, pointed to in the Zeit article, indicates a potential development. Although their view of the nation-state as transparent and acting solely for the good of its people is rather romantic, it still is and important hint that we have to ask ourselves how desirable this trend is. A deeper implication might be a conflict between the models of a traditional state and the virtual state of Google. A redefinition of the traditional model provides great chances to change things for the better, but also bears specific dangers. A positive result of the recent announcement could thus be a more intensive debate about the future of politics with the Internet.

Filed under: Censorship, China, Google, Internet, Politics

The End of (Reality) Browsing?

Siva Vaidhyanathan’s notion of googlization is around for quite a while already. The practice of search arguably spread from the Internet into other areas of life. With mobile devices the ability to search became increasingly pervasive and finally enabled, however basic, augmented reality applications. Jeff Jarvis calls this the hyperlocal and recently published a nice blogpost summarizing where this might lead. There he speaks of the annotated world and he concludes with a redefinition of search:

This is the new way I want to look at search: not to search a data base but to search my world, to see what is around me in new ways […]

Arguably being a form of googlization in the sense of Vaidhyanathan the idea might imply some more things. Before the massive success of search engines one was browsing the Web by calling a URL to start from, and then followed its links to the next page and so on. Very similar one is ‘browsing’ reality today, just strolling around to see what comes. In a local context one usually knows certains paths, like on the portals used earlier on the Web. Landmarks could be described as links that are used for navigational purposes. If this reality is increasingly augmented with data and constantly searched will this change? What happens if I can search the reality around me? The experience of reality changes fundamentaly when I can point a device to anything and anyone in order to search for further information. It might be too far fetched to argue that the way one experiences reality will change from browsing to search. Thinking about the implications of such a shift, however, remains interesting. Google’s experimental “near me now” button points to a possible outcome. Rather then walking on known paths one can explore the local by searching it.

Filed under: Future, Google, Mobile, Ubiquitous Computing