Florian Cramer on Thu, 27 Dec 2007 04:39:20 +0100 (CET)

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Re: <nettime> "Google distorts reality"

On Wednesday, December 26 2007, 15:43 (+0100), geert lovink wrote:

> Google distorts reality, Austrian study says
> Download the study (in English) here: 
> http://www.iicm.tugraz.at/iicm_papers/dangers_google.pdf

The problem of this report is that potentially valid points of political
and economic criticism are muddled under borderline crackpot rhetoric
and 100-pages-rants against academic plagiarism and "the
Google-Wikipedia version of reality." Yes, this really is what the
authors mean and believe:

   "The online encyclopaedia Wikipedia is problematic not only because
   of vandalism or fabrication of data. It is also problematic because
   of the often unknown origin of the basic texts than adapted by the
   authors' collective of net users. In some reported cases already the
   very first version of a Wikipedia entry was plagiarised, often copied
   nearly verbatim without the use of much "brain power" from an older
   print source. [...] These are only some examples or case studies of
   an evolving text culture without brains also on the Wikipedia."
   "Nevertheless there are some major frictions which don't make the
   situation easier, especially for the younger Google Copy Paste
   generation used to the net. Just have a closer look at a paragraph of
   the "GNU Free Documentation License", an older license for example
   still prominently used by Wikipedia. By this license the copying of
   texts, images, and otherwise information is allowed under the
   condition that the copier publishes the copied version under the same
   license (alone this would be impossible in the classical academic
   publishing system!) and is mentioning the source."

The study unfortunately is little more than academics outraged over
universal plebeian information access and what they perceive as the
apocalypse of good academic knowledge culture through suspicious
programming and equally suspicious popular use of search engines. Since
the authors completely fail to reflect, let alone criticize, academic
databases like the Scientific Citation Index, Dissertation Abstracts,
the MLA bibliography etc. by their own standards, it makes their
polemic, politely said, a bit one-sided.

By conflating Google and Wikipedia, the authors fail to differentiate
between a private corporate entity built on trade-secret algorithms and
search methods as its business model [Google] and a source community
non-profit which is fully transparent on the level of its software
engine, its contents and its organization [Wikipedia]. It even seems as
if the authors falsely believe Wikipedia to be a company since they
demand that "search engines should be run by non-profit organisations"
(p. 74) - Wikipedia (and Wikisearch) should thus be what they are
looking for. 

A real economic or political analysis or critique of Google is
conversely missing in the study. But not only that, the Google bashing
becomes a bit funny, if not questionable, if one looks at Mr. Maurer's
home page http://www.iicm.tugraz.at/home/hm_hp/vitae and the following
document linked to it: http://www.hyperwave.com/e/partners/technology


[Still having to work on responses to the "Semantic Web" thread, I


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