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'The Dark Face of Google'

by Sanchia de Souza last modified Mar 24, 2009 06:51 AM
Talk by Patrice Riemens

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Mar 27, 2009
from 11:30 AM to 12:30 PM


Centre for Internet and Society, Bangalore

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(+91) 080 4092 6283

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The extraordinary rise of Google Inc. from a 'confidential' search site in the late nineties, the heydays of Altavista, to its present preminent status on the internet, has attracted a lot of attention. The admirers see Google as the incarnation of things to come, not only in information retrieval & management, and not even on the Internet only, but in the economy and society as a whole. The nay-sayers variously view Google as a flattening behemoth of digital information, or as a cultural war machine, bent on the Americanisation of the planet, and generally as a mendacious commercial monopoly pretending to 'do no evil' while hypocritically promoting open source, access, and life in general.

Outside this discussion stand an ever growing mass of millions of users who ask no questions, profess neither admiration or hatred (and if so, rather the former), but are happy to use the search engine and the many other services provided by Google. That they hereby gladly if unwittingly contribute to reinforcing the assets of Google, in the words of Yann Moulier Boutang, "the only company in the world that is able to make 14 million people work for it at any given moment, for free", is one of the many starkly under-lighted aspects of this Internet giant's operative mode.

'The Dark Face of Google' is the title of the book written two years ago by the Italian Ippolita Collective, which Patrice Riemens is currently translating. Ippolita's brief is neither eulogizing nor demonising Google, but to understand it, especially in its less advertised aspects. Their aim is to educate Google's users, not to wean them away from it, and to politicise the discussion about search, digital services, and the management of information and knowledge in general. Patrice Riemens will discuss a few points in this context.

* The ways in which Google determines, undermines, or enforces existing power and knowledge structures

* The Google Books Project and how it reinforces IPR tyranny

* Google's local policies and how they affect fundamental civil liberties

This talk, like Ippolita's book, is intended as a general, informed introduction to an issue that has been insufficiently discussed, due to media hype, and the apparent innocuousness of a readily available, extremely fast and effective, free, Internet service.


Patrice Riemens is a social geographer by education and a private intellectual and internet activist by choice. He is a promoter of Open Knowledge and Free Software, and has been involved as a "FLOSSopher" (a 'philosopher' of the Free/Libre and Open Source Software movements) at the Asia Source and Africa Source camps, held to promote FLOSS among non-governmental organisations. He is a member of the Dutch hackers' group Hippies from hell.

He has formerly worked with De Waag Center for Old and New Media, an institute housed in an old castle in Amsterdam, on the cutting edge of technology, culture, education and industry. Patrice has also been on the staff of Multitudes, a French philosophical, political and artistic monthly journal founded in 2000 by Yann Moulier-Boutang. 

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