Vaidhyanathan’s piece, “The Googleization of Everything (And Why We Should Worry)” opens with this statement: “Google dominated the World Wide Web.” And it’s true. Google’s reach is pervasive and broad — it’s nearly impossible to function (especially as a college student) without utilizing its vast wealth of information. The reason Google has been so hugely successful is its monopolization of information. While other search engines, such as Yahoo or Bing, certainly exist, they simply do not function on the same level. And of course, in recent years, Google has expanded its conglomerate further than simply information gathering — Google Chrome, Google Drive and Google Fiber, among many others, now add to the company’s portfolio.
So, the question is — is the Googleization of everything a good thing? It’s clearly an effective thing, that much is obvious. Instantaneous access to information from around the world, the ability to collaborate with colleagues on an online platform, faster Internet connection — it’s clear why Google was able to insert itself into the lives of virtually everyone with access to a computer.
However, the problem with any Internet dictator is that it gets to rank information from most to least important. Companies proficient in web design — namely, those with simple, clean web pages, the inclusion of keywords and mastery of search engine optimization — will appear at the top of the page, while those without web experience will be buried. Hardly fair. An article published by Harvard University entitled, “Fairness, Equality and Democracy: Three Big Words,” Sidney Verba writes, “Voice and equality are central to democratic participation. In a meaningful democracy, the people’s voice must be loud and clear.”
Can Google be democratic if it buries the voice of the little guy? If only the companies with (expensive) web designers get the most hits, is Google truly contributing to the democratic ideals of equality and fairness? Schudson’s piece, “Political observatories, databases & news in the emerging ecology of public information,” discusses the role of information in democracy, saying that one of journalism’s key contributions to democracy is the information is provides to accurately describe the social world. Google certainly provides a wealth of information, though (out of necessity) prioritizes based on user-friendliness and SEO. If journalists get information from databases such as Google, as the Schudson piece suggests, are journalists then representing the social world accurately?
It’s been argued that the proliferation of information technology since 2000 makes it easier for everyone’s voices to be heard — since virtually anyone can post anything on the Internet, it gives all a platform to speak from. But when the voices of the big players are the only ones amplified, others are obscured. When information is everywhere, it’s impossible to ensure that each message is given equal attention. Perhaps that’s where Google fails the democratic system — while it makes information available and easy to access, it fails to ensure all voices are heard. And how could it, when millions of messages are vying for equal attention? Maybe the flaw isn’t with Google as a platform, but with the system of democracy itself.