Reading about Google and its maps in this article from the Atlantic has me thinking about power — specifically, who has it, and what that means for those of us who don’t.
Google really has revolutionized the way we see the world. We can literally watch it from our desktop computers. Remember when Google Earth launched, and suddenly you were able to digitally see your house from the street view?
And it’s not been a walk in the park to develop this technology for Google. What’s revealed in the article is that it’s not actually a mess of computer algorithms that’s making these intricate maps as I would have expected, but rather a massive cohort of human beings working every day. With all the manpower, what does that mean for the competition? With Google’s jump start on making the world digital (think about their fleet of Street View cars out on the roads), and the fact that it takes “hundreds of operators to map a country,” is there any hope of a competitor catching up? One “competitor” mentioned in the article is Open Street Map, something I’ve never heard of. And they don’t even have Google’s street view feature.
The entire mapping project is called Ground Truth. It’s kind of an eerie name to me. Is Google creating the truth about the way we see the world around us? Do they have too large a stake in that? I’m starting to think Google will go from mapping the world to taking over the world. And I’m only half joking.
And let’s not forget about the little-known feature called the Google search engine. Arguably the most popular search engine the Internet has to offer, Google has the potential to dictate what information we see. This has obvious connections with theories related to journalism: in “making the news,” journalists are responsible for telling the public what’s important, what’s going on, and what to be knowledgeable about. But is Google helping to mediate what news we see? Mentioned in the News lab blog post, Google features are “…designed to assist reporters in researching, reporting, and distributing the news as well as with engaging audiences.”
What do you all think? What does the relationship between journalists and massive digital presences like Google look like in the future, especially since print journalism is slowly growing more obsolete?