Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Google's role in the spread of Information

I'm taking a class at WPI this term called "Social Implications of Computing" where everyone is required to write a short paper on topics relevant to ethics and information processing. I plan to publish all of them that are at least remotely interesting.

With all of that out of the way, here is the first one:

One page paper on a point you choose to make about the statement:
"Google brought information to the general public."

Google did not bring information to the public, they have only made information more easily accessible to the general public. Information has been around forever, so to say that Google was the first to bring information to the general public is incorrect. Google is also not the only way to get the information that is on the Internet, there are many other search engines which index the same information.

It would be hard to make the statement that any search engine has brought information to the general public, since that search engine could easily be replaced by any other one. To put this in context, a Internet based company that I would say has brought information to the general public is Wikipedia. It has a publicly available, regularly updated, central source of information about a massive amount of topics.

Information has been available to the public in so many ways, from storytelling to printed information; including newspapers, magazines, and books. However, there was no central place to collect and store the information contained in these mediums. The Internet provided this, Google and other search engines exist to index this information and make it much easier to find what you are looking for.

More recently, Google has provided more access to the data they have already collected, through it's multitude of API's. However, even though this information is available to the general public, it is almost completely currently used by software developers, not the general public. This opens up a new aspect to the question, since Google is now a place to obtain information from. An interesting use of this information can be seen at a project called googleDrive, which allows you to drive a car on top of a simple overhead map pulled from Google Maps.

In conclusion, I would argue the point that “Google has brought information closer to the general public.” Information is not provided to you by Google, you must use it's service to find the information you are looking for. Google is a great service in this regard, since it allows a user to find and retrieve the information they are looking for in a matter of seconds, a speed which would have been nearly unthought of until recently in the past.

PS: googleDrive was made by Samuel Birch. It's fairly simple so far, but I am happy to see more people using the data that they already have available to them.

Someone should work on an openGL version using street view, maybe a street racing simulator, or just so you can get familiar with the location without having to waste gas.

EDIT 3/24/08: Fixed a typo


Endri said...

This is quite informative and true