Google Me: One-Click Democracy

Google Me: One-Click Democracy

Google Me: One-Click Democracy

Google Me: One-Click Democracy

Synopsis

"Google is a champion of cultural democracy, but without culture and without democracy." In this witty and polemical critique the philosopher Barbara Cassin takes aim at Google and our culture of big data. Enlisting her formidable knowledge of the rhetorical tradition, Cassin demolishes the Google myth of a "good" tech company and its "democracy of clicks," laying bare the philosophical poverty and political naivete that underwrites its founding slogans: "Organize the world's information," and "Don't be evil." For Cassin, this conjunction of globalizing knowledge and moral imperative is frighteningly similar to the way American demagogues justify their own universalizing mission before the world.

While sensitive to the possibilities of technology and to Google's playful appeal, Cassin shows what is lost when a narrow worship of information becomes dogma, such that research comes to mean data mining and other languages become provincial "flavors" folded into an impoverished Globish, or global English.

Excerpt

The following text is a translation of Barbara Cassin’s critique of Google, Google-moi: La deuxième mission de l’Amérique, first published in French by Albin Michel in 2007. There were other more familiar, often journalistic accounts of Google published around the same time, such as John Battelle’s The Search and David Vise’s The Google Story, both of which Cassin references, or more recent volumes by media theorists, such as Siva Vaidhyanathan’s The Googlization of Everything (2011), or Steven Levy’s In the Plex: How Google Thinks, Works, and Shapes Our Lives (2011), or even Eric Schmidt and Johathan Rosenberg’s own recent How Google Works. But Cassin’s book is the first to embed a critique of Google into a philosophical genealogy. What makes this book such a unique perspective on the phenomenon of Google and Internet culture more generally is that Cassin brings to bear an extraordinary philosophical rigor and sophistication to her account of the rise of Google and the impact it has had on cultural activities worldwide, most crucially on the forms that knowledge takes. Cassin is a formidable Hellenist by training, although her work overturns much of what we thought we understood about Greek philosophy, unsettling conventional wisdom or subverting critical commonplaces, and celebrating, for example, the Sophists over and against Plato’s philosopher-kings. in Google Me, her deep knowledge of Greek culture, philology, and philosophy (and of the history of philosophy and thought more broadly) becomes the lens through which she challenges the . . .

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