Google and the Search for the Future by Jenkins Jr. Holman

Android phones are taking the bigger share of the mobile market, because the software is free for developers, and runs well on any kind of hardware, not just Google sponsored phones (i.e. T-Mobile's Google-Phone).

In “Google and the Search for the Future”, apart from Holman’s criticism of Eric Schmidt (Google CEO at the time), he draws attention to Google’s efforts to save their search engine in the face of the escalating “app” revolution. The article shows that apple’s Iphone and its applications is a key player in the future of mobile computing. Google, with its Android, is trying to take back search revenues from Apple by having their own platform for the mobile search engine.

Google is also coming up with Chrome OS, which will work as an online operating system. Such a browser may   make Google a key player in the future of cloud computing. Schmidt reveals that Google’s next step as a search engine is not to answer people’s questions but rather to tell people what to do. Google has enough information about its user’s needs and habits that they can eventually tell them what they need to buy when they are close to a shop that sells that thing. That use of information in Schmidt’s opinion is the future of advertising.

Facebook has more information about its users than Google will ever have. How do you feel about Facebook using your information in the same way Google plans? Would you find it “ creepy “ that Google or Facebook tells you what you need?

If Facebook uses its database in aggressive advertising, how will that effect Google’s plan to be part of the future of target advertising?


The Omnigoogle by Nicholas Carr

Contrary to belief, Google’s business strategy is fairly straightforward. More than 99% of its sales come from targeted advertising. Google’s Chrome is just one way venture that complement it’s main business. They are invested into a better online experience. As activity on the internet goes up, so do their profits; but, this concept does not only apply to computers, just thinking about their android platform. When it’s easy and/or free to access the internet, it’s just another way for Google to collect data and turn that into cash. Also think, if one of their “betas” fails, in the digital world the cost is almost zero. The money-making principles of Microsoft and Google are the same, except they run (primarily) on different economies; one is an internet driven economy, and the other a personal computer economy.

After reading this article, why do you think Google is supporting open source software?


Scroogled by Cory Doctorow

This is a fiction story about the risks of your online activities being available and visible to people with power. It’s a terrifying account of what can happen when something like the Patriot Act goes too far and discloses your communications on the internet, and it all begins with targeted advertising. Greg who is trying to get through customs at an airport to reenter the US, is subject to a new program that allows an immigration officers to see what ads are being targeted towards him. Stirring suspicion, Greg becomes blacklisted and subject to more interrogation. With the scope of Google from Maps to Gmail, it’s a way of digitally compiling a file on a name or IP address, much easier than what the Statsi’s did to East Germans following World War II.

I recommend reading it if you are interested in privacy and the internet. One program I know of which seeks to fight abuse of our information is a free add-on for Firefox called TrackMeNot (http://trackmenot.org/) that I turned on again after reading this article. It was created by an NYU professor and doctoral student which they say “Protects users against search data profiling by issuing randomized queries to popular search engines.”

How do you protect your information online, and would you pay for it?


An example of Chrome's tabbed application browsing.

The Cloud’s Chrome Lining by Nicholas Carr

In Carr’s blog article, the author briefly discusses the reasoning behind the creation of the Chrome browser. Simply put, according to Google’s views, the average Internet browser (Mozilla Firefox, Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, Apple’s Safari) was not properly implementing the idea of cloud computing. Google saw cloud computing as a revolutionary way for users to access hundreds of services online via application-like interfaces. However, browser developers were slow in creating a browser that would be quicker and more application oriented. With Google aiming at competing face-to-face with Microsoft, the company, with its own resources, came up with Chrome, an open source browser that would support cloud applications.

Cloud computing is the future. Are you willing to hand over your email, calendars, contacts, group sharing, task-listing, and other software to third-party cloud services? Can you trust that your work will be accessible over the cloud for as long as you need it?


Google and Aptocracy by Siva Vaidhyanathan

According to author Siva Vaidhyanathan, Google uses a technocratic – or aptocratic – way of working. The author makes a simile with today’s modern institutions, meant to “conceive merit as a technical competence”. Today, we find ourselves taking LSATs and GMATs, aptitude tests which via numerical scores will allow us to enter the most prestigious universities. In turn, upon graduation, we will enter our dream jobs with the same kind of aptitudinal tests and interviews, after which we will reach the top of the ladder and make sure that those tests’ standards will be raised to allow for an even more competitive generation of workers.

Ultimately Google does the same. It’s employees are carefully selected after extremely difficult logical tests, after which only the cream of the crop gets hired. Similarly, the way Google searches are categorized follows an aptocratic way. Only those pages that pass strict algorithmic tests will eventually show up in the first results. The author cites Neil Postman’s concept of technopoly whereby society rules by and for technology. Then, Vaidhyanathan proceeds to disagree with Postman, in that technology is not autonomous, but rather we humans have influence over how technology works.

Finally, he concludes with the Google example. Google applies real-life cultural values and ideas to its technologies, so that its technologies fit the users’ needs. Which is exactly why Google uses the aptocratic method, so as to serve those users who live in aptocratic society.

The efficacy of aptitude tests has been debated for years now. Do you think that aptitude tests prevent Google – and other institutions – from hiring people that might change the world, because they just happen to get low scores when being tested?

14 Responses to “Weekly Readings: A Week Without Google”

  1. Yuna Park says:

    I definitely think it would be creepy for FB or Google to preemptively tell us what we individually need to buy. I feel like it will still take quite some time before people become comfortable with that sort of advertising. As I recall, there was a brief attempt to have sites like eBay or Amazon attached to your FB account, and any time you bought something it would be posted on the News Feed. People were really upset by that sort of invasive and blatant disregard for privacy. Despite what little privacy we have, I think that the illusion of privacy on the web is still valued by a lot of people.

    I know that I definitely could be a lot “safer” with my information online, and its something that I try to ignore because when I think too much about it it makes me kind of nauseated! I use the same password for a lot of sites, I’m not particularly savvy about protecting my information and I do find myself simply relying on the integrity of other sites (banking, email, etc) to keep my information safe. At the same time, I’ve also had to deal with my fair share of viruses, which always have the threat of some malicious program “watching” your every move. I think as of right now I don’t feel a very urgent need to get a lot of computer protection, but as I get older, have more assets, have a job that may monitor my online activity, etc., I would consider paying something for safer computer/internet use.

    It was interesting that Google’s aptocratic method for categorizing searches is supposed to be a highly intelligent and efficient design, but it is still so often fooled. The New York Times recently had an article (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/13/business/13search.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=google%20jcpenney&st=cse) about how J.C. Penney’s advertising team was able to trick Google’s algorithmic system into putting its sites at the top for hundreds of categories. In response to your question then, whether or not tests are inadequate, I do believe the answer is yes.

  2. jenny1rving says:

    It’s ridiculously unsettling thinking that Google and Facebook will eventually be telling us what to purchase on location… But what I find creepier is these two companies’ competition. In my advertising class last semester, some girls from the Facebook advertising unit came to talk to us about this aggressive advertising attack and how desirable Facebook is for advertisers, considering the massive amounts of consumers it puts right in their back pockets. Interestingly, one Facebook-er (an NYU grad) had just moved from Google, despite the HUGE pay increase Google offered her. Her reasons? She likes where Facebook is going better. Well Where is Google going? Somewhere straight out of 1984, perhaps?

    And on that note, hell yes I would pay to have my information protected online. But at the same time, I would worry about how legitimate that protection would be.

    Something else that is extremely over-bearing on Google’s part is the Youtube-GMail linkage demand. Until I linked my accounts, Youtube refused to work properly for me. I didn’t even have a Gmail account. I feel like I was pretty much forced into one.

    Google gets creepier every day. My friend has an Android phone with “Google goggles”on it. What are those? Take a picture of a book? It can find that book on amazon for you in a second.

  3. Queenie says:

    Media manipulates culture and defines status/people. That said, doesn’t regular marketing research focus on our behavior, preferences, and attitudes? They collect our “personal information” to come up with strategies and campaigns that appeal to us and influence our “needs”/wants. Whatever Facebook and Google are doing is just advertising done in a different way— I don’t understand the scandal, quite frankly. Sure, Facebook and Google can influence consumer behavior in some ways but it cannot tell me what I need. Well, it could tell me what I “need” but that doesn’t mean I have to do/get/buy what it tells me because ultimately, I’m human and Facebook/Google is not.

    I think Google is supporting open source software because they want to get ahead of the competition. Open source appeals to the masses and welcomes new ideas, therefore, Google can experiment without having to compromise much. As stated in the article, ‘failure is cheap’, and they are able to make money off ads all along.

    Other than choosing wise passwords, I don’t do much to protect my information online. However, I never buy on EBay – never been interested in EBay merchandise– and I only use my credit card on a limited number of trusted sites. I would not pay to protect my information online because I don’t think I have any risky or uber important personal information online.

    I would be willing to provide my info and documents to a third party cloud service, but only as a backup. Usually, when there’s something really important, I save it on Time Machine, I e-mail myself, and I put it on GoogleDocs because it makes it easier for me to access that particular information from wherever I may be. Or, if something goes wrong, I know it is stored somewhere else.

    • chelseachristensen says:

      I agree with you Queenie on the fact that, although Facebook and Google may be collecting information on me and suggesting needs or wants, that doesn’t necessarily force me to buy anything. I think that our society has grown so accustomed to being bombarded with offers/deals/advertisements, we know how to filter the information that we want and need, and I see the growth of Google just as a continuance of this.

      Personally, I would rather give up a few privacy settings to have access to free and convenient information. And it makes sense to me that Google wants to support open source software because it fits in the same model of free access to information. By making it available for changes and updates, it benefits them because it gets them more user-ship and its one more way we depend on Google in our lives.

  4. sjevakim says:

    I recently started reading a book about Google, and Google’s founders and its employees always have concern about efficiency. I believe that it was the major reason why Google became dominant and powerful in the Internet business area. I feel like too much efficiency, like showing what exactly users want/need to buy, would make people feel repulsive rather than convenient.

    I believe that supporting open source software is definitely worth to do for Google. As Google always seeks for new ideas, it is another way to gather more ideas with spending less money and energy.

    I was very surprised while I was reading Scroogled. what if it happens somewhere in the world? that’s so scary. I think I would pay for protecting my personal information. that’s really creepy to think about others, especially people who hold power, can reach my email and read all my personal stuffs. But, before paying for protection of my personal information, I would rather not keep personal info through internet if it really happens.

  5. wasante says:

    I never thought about my dependence on google till now. There are literally classes I need to use google to pass but I’m not sure I’ll make it through the whole week but, I know its going to hurt.

  6. Matt Gorman says:

    I can’t decide how I feel about Google’s use of our information. I think that in some cases, it is extremely helpful to receive suggestions, tips, and the like about what you are doing from an outside source like Google. I also think that if by figuring out what I like, Google can send me ads that I’m actually interested in instead of just random boring ads, that’s a good thing. What I don’t like (and what I think a lot of people don’t like) is that this often goes on without permission or the knowledge of the user. The worst part about all this is that sometimes, we do give them permission when signing up for an app or using a program without reading the user agreement. Even if we did, however, we could opt out of it, but Google often provides some of the most useful services on the web, so opting out would be extremely difficult to do alone.

    Maybe an interesting solution to this (although I doubt Google would let it happen) would be some Facebook-style privacy choices, where you choose what information can be used by whom. If that were the case, people could use the Google products without selling their entire online history. Obviously, though, this would cut out a lot of profit potential for Google and therefore probably would never come about.

  7. lizcullen says:

    I completely agree that aptitude test and standardize testing in general limits people from getting ahead in life, such as with a job at Google. I myself score extremely low in aptitude tests, but excel elsewhere in writing and more analytical based tests. And I am a bit on the fence as to how Vaidhyanathan reasons with his understandings of technopoly. If a week without google has taught us anything, it is that society definitely is ruled and by and for technology. While I believe that he is right in his example of Google as catering to people’s cultural needs and expectations of their real life…it still remains both a company and piece of technology that has vast influence and power over its users. Case in point is the article by Holman, since google will soon be able to alert us when we just need to buy a specific product in our proximity. Super creepy, and big brother is closer then we think now with the rise of google.

  8. peternenov says:

    If Facebook uses its database in aggressive advertising, how will that effect Google’s plan to be part of the future of target advertising?

    I think the battle between Facebook and Google will be extremely interesting as it progresses in the future. I feel that Google seems worried that Facebook will gain/already has the ability to deliver more targeted ads than Google itself can. Facebook, however, bases its model on users putting up information so that they can share it with their friends and community. I think as the population as a whole develops a greater Facebook literacy, an incentive may develop to share less so that we maintain a more positive presentation of self to others. Google’s challenge might be more simple than developing a better social network. Instead of encouraging users to post their information in order so that it is shared with others, they might benefit from developing a service that gives you an incentive to store the information for your own use/purpose.

  9. cassidyraehavens says:

    I’m actually kind of split on the idea of target advertising–on one hand, I can see why Google and Facebook do it. It’s smart advertising, and as a user of those services, I would rather have things that I’m interested put in front of my face than stuff that I completely don’t care about. I think that Facebook and Google almost feel this way as well. But on the other hand, I feel like it’s almost cheating. I know that we probably agree to have our searches or interests or whatever monitored for target advertising when we check off the little box in the terms and conditions, but I feel like there should be something more explicit stated, or at least an option to turn the monitoring off. It’s just weird to search for something, and Google is just storing all of these bits of information without telling you to modify the content of advertising. Very Big Brotherish. I have a feeling that it won’t change for a while–law is always slower than technology and most of us don’t have much of a choice with using the Internet these days.

  10. xuan says:

    I think it’s interesting to see how the term privacy has changed. By participating on Facebook and various other social media, we are surrendering large parts of our private lives to the public through technology. I think that the key term is technology here. We comprise of a society to which we all want to feel a sense of belonging. More and more, technology is how and where we are living and living through and is becoming incorporated in all aspects of our lives. Although the idea of programs telling us how to live sounds absurd and distant, I think this is where we are moving towards. I mean we’ve already invested a huge portion of our lives on the net. Why not have it do something for us in return? I don’t think I would hate targeted ads I had something to benefit from them. Also, I think they would also be a reminder to us that our online activites are monitored.

  11. larawesnofske says:

    Unfortunately I don’t think that people will share less on the internet. I think that the fear of over-sharing has been around for some time now, and yet we all choose to share more and more each day. Eric Schmidt’s statement in “Google & the Search for the Future” has a sort of unsettling merit to it. At some point in the future, Google may actually have the power to tell us what we want before we really even realize it. he question is: how seamlessly will this change happen? Just like every time Facebook launches a new version; we all complain for about a week, and then soon we can’t even remember what the old version looked like.

  12. bettycwang says:

    I, like everyone else here, think that the transparency of our privacy is extremely unsettling. Given that our privacy is so visible to corporations, it is interesting that most individuals still make that conscious decision to put your private information out there. This is especially apparent through Facebook, which unlike Google, is not compiling data through your online usage but through the users’ own decisions to interact on the website. I think this is where Google will have an ultimate advantage over Facebook. While Facebook can get more personal information about the user, the user can consciously change his/her account based on how much they think they should publicly share. Unlike Facebook, Google has a somewhat unlimited access to the users’ personal preferences because it has become such a necessary component of our modern, digital lives. It is much harder for us to consciously block information from Google.
    I have some qualms about the effectiveness of targeted advertising. In my personal experience, I mostly feel unsettled when I am faced with advertisements that seem to be only targeted towards me. It serves as a reminder that my online activities are being watched some kind of “big brother” figure. I wonder how many people actually get caught up with this targeted advertising. Are they as skeptical as I am?

  13. After reading “The Omnigoogle” by Nicholas Carr I think Google is most likely supporting open source software because it allows people to contribute to the betterment of Google. If multiple programmers can work on a project that Google is trying to implement then Google gets to save money and get a number of new ideas and problem solvers working on their project if it is open source. They are able to also create a community of google users and programmers. Furthermore, Google will reduce their costs and expand “the scope of Internet use…”because the sales of complementary products rise in tandem, a company has a strong strategic interest in reducing the cost and expanding the availability of the complements to its core product. Google is the number one information provider and it get’s its money from the information it gets from us when we search things by selling that information to If information is free

    I protect my information online by erasing cookies as often as possible. I also do not like to give out my information unless the website has certified authorization. Furthermore, I would definitely pay for online security because I would pay for bank security and I would pay for home security so why not information security? If anything my identity and information is most important to me.

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