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The Search (Part I) February 18, 2007

Posted by Steve Field in The Search.
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In his book, The Search, author John Battelle poignantly points out that when advanced technology works well, it is like magic — the user doesn’t know how it works, but is impressed that it does.

Much like We the Media catalogues the rise of citizen journalism, the first half of The Search reads as a history of the search function. It describes what it is, how it works, and who the key players in the world of Search are (namely Google).

In this case, understanding the history is especially important. Search in America and around the world has become ubiquitous, but the vast majority of people are unaware of how the “magic” works. They have never heard of terms such as “page rank” or “crawler,” but it is terms like these that make search — and the vast knowledge it provides — possible.

It was especially interesting to read about the CEO of Google coming to the realization that his company is not just a technology company. Google truly is, in every sense of the words, a media company. It just isn’t media in the 20th century sense.

While our assigned reading only covered the first half of Battelle’s book, I still ended this week’s reading feeling empty. The history is important, but Battelle leaves out much of the so what factor in his writing.

Yes, it is interesting to know how search works and how Google rose to become the media empire it is today. But what is missing from the reading thus far is the following question: what does this mean? How does Google impact our society? Is it a positive or negative thing that online search has become such an integral part of our digital culture?

As a final thought, I am reminded of my first thought when opening the cover of the book and reading the title of the first chapter. “The Database of Intentions.” It deeply reminded me of a flash video I had seen called EPIC 2014.

If you haven’t seen EPIC 2014, you should check it out. The video was created a few years ago by the Museum of Media History, and outlines a fictional history of the rise of a digital media empire that allows users to maintain their own database of knowledge. In this fictional future, Google merges with Amazon to create “Googlezon,” a media company which ultimately takes out the New York Times (by using advanced search combined with Amazon’s preference recommendation to deliver personalized news for every person on Earth.) It is an entertaining video, and relates well to Battelle’s discussion of the overwhelmingly fast growth of Google.

Is a Googlezon in the future? Only time will tell. For now, I hope that the remainder of The Search delves deeper into some of the societal implications of search. The book thus far has been informativ; I just hope it goes beyond historical documentation.

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1. The impact of search « Field Foolery - March 6, 2007

[…] impact of search March 6, 2007 Posted by Steve Field in The Search. trackback Earlier, I lamented that the first part of The Search read more as a historical primer on Google than […]


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