Eric Phetteplace's Reviews > The Googlization of Everything:

The Googlization of Everything by Siva Vaidhyanathan
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's review
Aug 26, 2011

it was ok
bookshelves: lis-web
Read from August 24 to 31, 2011

I didn't overcome much of my pro-Google bias by reading this book, which is disappointing. The argumentation was spotty (an anecdote about your one journalist friend who defaults to Google Docs does not suffice to show that the company stifles innovative competitors) and most chapters failed to coalesce ("How Google Came to Rule the Web" explains no such thing). I love the central thesis--that we cannot trust a corporation with such massive responsibility, but need an NGO public org of some sort--but the execution was awful. I did like the public/market failure idea and think that several were well-identified throughout the book. The best aspect was definitely how the work places Google in the context of historical trends (e.g. neoliberalism, the public learning how to share on the Internet, the emerging "global civil society"). Unfortunately, many of these asides are too lengthy and distract from the thesis. What's more, Vaidhyanathan repeatedly lapses into a laundry list of complaints style, failing to construct an overarching critical narrative. While there are plenty of great citations, the original research is limited to discussions with Google execs who spout exactly the sort of unoffensive (and easy to dissect) fluff you'd expect.
There were also a few instances where Google gets caught in a double-bind and can do no good: locality-specific results erode a global sense of common knowledge, but being universalist and treating every country the same is a form of "infrastructural imperialism" that ignores cultural specifics. If failure is inevitable, the search for a solution is hopeless. The significant portion devoted to Google China was unpersuasive due to this fault: I came away with no clear idea of how any organization (for-profit or otherwise) can effectively handle the situation so as to avoid the author's criticisms. The Google Books section was almost entirely defensive arguments; in other words, Vaidhyanathan showed why the program isn't great, but did not demonstrate that it was proactively harmful. Perhaps I'm just too skeptical to accept this book, but it seemed to repeatedly waste golden opportunities to present strong evidence in support of its claims.

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