Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Mitterrand Will Meet Google

Culture minister Frédéric Mitterrand is attempting to coordinate a common European approach to Google and its plan to digitize all the world's libraries. He'll take the European view into the belly of the beast when he visits Google HQ in California next year.

By the way, Blogger, the software, and Blogspot, the Web host, which bring you this blog are Google services. The Google empire is vast and far-flung and, though it seems benign and brings us many products which I personally would find it hard to live without (Google search and Gmail and Blogger have become essential parts of my daily routine), Mitterrand is right to be wary, as Robert Darnton, the head of Harvard's libraries, has pointed out. Contracts are contracts, and the language in Google's contracts is not quite as free-spirited as the image of Google's youthful founders might suggest. In any case, I'm glad to see that Mitterrand appears to be taking a pragmatic approach rather than simply invoking national pride and a certain protectionist instinct. Google's immense resources can be of great public benefit, but corporations outlive us all, and it is essential to protect the interests of future generations from the exclusivist instincts of Google (or its attorneys).

Hegel said that "the daily newspaper is modern man's morning prayer." Jean Baudrillard might say, rather, that Google services are post-modern man's simulacrum of sacred ritual. And it's always a good idea to be wary of what we sacrifice to what we take to be sacred and therefore untouchable.

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