Monday, February 28, 2011

My Growing Dependency with Google

Reading Search Engine Society has me acutely aware of how dependent I am becoming with Google. All of its functions has me wanting more and I am starting to understand that my Google package could pretty much do anything for AND with me. All of the features Google offers are designed to help give me the information I ask for. As Halavais mentions on page 57, "The successful search engine does this: it is a technology as much of ignoring as it is of presenting." While I was reading Chapter 3, "Attention," I kept thinking of Google Reader. I have moved from the traditional "Search Engine" to help me move things in to a place where I can ask it to filter information for me so I only see what I ask for. Now, part of me thinks this is slightly restrictive because I will maybe not have those "serendipitous moments" I have learned to find value in. But, in the same respect, I think those "serendipitous moments" are more structured with Google Reader. I have several blogs and websites that I feed into Google Reader, which, in turn provides me with a stream of links that I can follow that I wasn't necessarily looking for, but that are similar in content to the types of links I set up to feed into Reader.

Halavais talks about gaining the attention of the user in this chapter. Gaining attention is obviously "the point" for people who publish on the Internet. Page 57 starts with "The web is not flat," where Halavais writes about how websites that have more links will inevitably get more hits (63). "Search engines both contribute to the selection of the more prominent sites, and in turn are more influenced by them" (59). As users continue to choose the pages and links that have the most links, and they in turn re-post and contribute to linking these pages more fully, Halavais writes, "when individuals decide to follow this path, they further reinforce [the] lopsided distribution. Individuals choose their destination based on popularity, a fully intentional choice, but this results in the winner-take-all distribution, an outcome none of the contributors desired to reinforce" (64). So, this begs the question, "Is the web a good thing?" I guess Google could have some kind of God complex and direct me to where they wanted me to go regardless of what I asked for, but I guess we kind of trust that isn't happening. Kind of a weird, scary thought, though if you ask me.

But, with this being said, it still doesn't slow down my budding love affair for Google. Not only am I enjoying some of the features they make available for FREE, I also have a growing level of respect for them and how they continue to grow and adapt their brand for their users. Since we are a part of what Halavais calls "An attention economy" (68), Google is just providing what we, the users, are asking for. Since "The web increases the amount of information available to a person, but it does not increase the capacity for consuming that information," we are asking Google to do that for us with Google Reader.

Halavais also mentions spam and Googlebombing. We read an article last semester called. "I'll Google It!: How Collective Wisdom in Search Engines Alters the Rhetorical Canons" that was interesting. Here's the link:


  1. Re: "I guess Google could have some kind of God complex and direct me to where they wanted me to go regardless of what I asked for, but I guess we kind of trust that isn't happening."

    This trust works both ways, too. Google's reputation is shaped by the quality of the results and their seeming-neutrality. If search results were grossly skewed, many would turn away from them and seek alternatives. Part of the challenge here is that we cannot know when search is skewed (i.e., it's not easy to tell). So the implications are usually subtle: links to a particular site or domain go missing, for example.

    Your points about serendipity remind me of the maxim about luck, "Luck favors the prepared." Following Halavais's discussion, maybe "Serendipity favors the connected."

  2. I find myself less and less enamored with Google the more exposure I have to it. I am not trying to be a curmudgeon. Of course, I use Google for really important searches, like "how to tie a tie" and "how to prune an amaryllis." But I don't like my search engine to suggest additional blogs I might like based on the ones I already read. And I don't like ads tailored to my interests based on links I have followed in the past. I don't want to have a steady stream of Twitter-feeds fed into my phone at all hours any more than I want Google to stack up piles and piles of things I should be reading. For me, Google Reader does not save me time. Without it, I just wouldn't read blogs. Looking at Google as though it has a god-complex gives it too much power. We can choose to let it have that power or not. And that power of choice is exactly what makes Google not god-like, because no god derives its power from the people who believe in it.