On any given day my life is filled with new information. The first thing I do in the morning is check my email, followed by the news, then social media, and eventually text messages all before I greet my roommates with a blank expression and a groggy “good morning.” Like many Americans, knowledge and awareness are foundational to my outlook on life. If the stock market is crashing, I can relate that to my loan interest rates going up and if Miley Cyrus did something crazy at the VMA’s, I will know what to talk about by the water cooler at work.
In “The Googlization of Everything”, author Siva Vaidhyanathan talks about the mass effect of companies like Google. With their hand in everything from search engines to electric cars and third world Wi-Fi capability, Google has set the standard on what it looks like to be a multinational technology company in the twenty first century. He argues that Google’s grasp is so deep on society and the internet in particular that it may be difficult to even control what they are working on and how it might affect us. Vaidhyanathan explains, “It’s such a new phenomenon that old metaphors and precedents don’t fit the challenges the company presents to competitors and users. So far Google manages us much better than we manage Google”(20).
I would add that it isn’t just Google’s affect on us that is changing society but rather our definition of information- what it looks like and how we use it. I remember when I used Google for the first time. I was in elementary school and the main thing I noticed were the bright colors in the logo. I could care less about its search capability, algorithms or user interface. It was the 90s and kids usually spent more time playing outside than they did behind a computer screen. The definitions of childhood and activity have changed since then. In only one generation, advances in computer technology have exploded and captivated every child’s attention with the slick graphics and organized chaos that children love.
When we discussed interest groups in the 60s and 70s, we talked about direct mail and membership based organizations that only required a check to be “involved.” Through the use of technology advancement, or what I would refer to as information advancement, interest groups are able to attract large groups of people interested in the same things and keep regular contact with them through portals like email and social media. “Google trains us to think as good Googlers,” says Vaidhyanathan as it changes how we view information, ultimately altering what we care about and how much we are willing to do to show it (50). In a short amount of time, our political capabilities as everyday Americans have expanded. We now have access to information in a way that consumes our lives. Whether we use those capabilities to solve policy issues or not is another question.
Has Google changed the world? Yes. Will you also change the world? The answer remains to be seen.
Vaidhyanathan, Siva. The Googlization of Everything: (and Why We Should Worry). Berkeley: U of California, 2011. Pg. 20, 50. Print.