The Imaginary Museum – Google Tries

February 7, 2011

Hoist by his own petard.

An article in today’s New York Times describes the new Google Art Project.  This is Google’s latest info/data binge, as it pursues its goal of organizing all the world’s data.  It harks back to a book I bought many years ago in which an artist created an imaginary museum that he would like to visit.  It’s an old idea, and an intriguing one for art lovers.

The article gives a review that is generally favorable, and enthusiastic, with several warnings about it being a work in progress.  The title makes a knowing reference to Walter Benjamin’s famous essay, The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.   I took a look.

These are my reactions:

  • Why would you want to ‘navigate’ through a ‘virtual 3-D’ museum as you do on Google street view?  It’s incredibly awkward, and the point is to look at the art anyway, not the museum.  Unless it’s a building with historical interest.  My stroll down Versailles’ Hall of Mirrors wasn’t very illuminating
  • A lot of museums and universities (here’s a favorite:  NYPL) have very good online sites that make much of their collection available, with a lot more information, context, and technological elegance.  I don’t see that the Google site offers anything.  The reviewer addressed some of this, but asserts that the United Nations aspect of the site – it brings together museums from all over the world – is a valuable feature.
  • I would much rather see Google funding the creation of sites by specific museums than trying to do it all itself, with the obvious publicity advantages accruing to their stockholders.
  • Some of the high-resolution images are truly incredible.
  • Although the images may be more faithful than what you can get from most art books, there is much to be said in favor of the book format over this sort of online browsing.  For doing research, as opposed to browsing, the Web and Google are magnificent.
  • The reviewer says:  From where I sit Google’s Art Project looks like a bandwagon everyone should jump on. It makes visual knowledge more accessible, which benefits us all.  Who would argue against the idea that the more that is available on the Web, the better? But I have my doubts about whether Google is providing an improvement on the current experience of reproductions, which are the “next best thing” to viewing the actual art.  Nor do I think that the dessimination of [visual] information is the same as the spread of [visual] knowledge.  That is a misconception of The Information Age, which is to say, The Age of Google.

This concludes yet another dyspeptic rant by yours truly.

Advertisements

Google advertisements

July 9, 2010

I remain puzzled by the success of Google’s business model.  Obviously, I don’t have the makings of a good businessman, because Google is fantastically successful, with a torrential positive cashflow and high profits.  Google seems to have more of a right to the name Amazon than Amazon.com, given the relatively meagre profitability of the online bookstore cum emporium, despite it’s annual revenue, and Amazon.com should be called, say, Thames, a not all that impressive river.

Google gets its money from advertising, ads that Internet users click on after making a search.  I ran a very focused ad campaign for a specialized product related to my work, and it garnered a decent response, but if I had done a search for that product, I don’t think I would have clicked on the ads it presented.  I don’t think I have ever clicked on a Google ad, except for a few instances when I experimented to see just what they would turn up.  Once again, I am obviously not a judge of how people will behave.

My sense of the advertisements that appear on the Google sidebar is that they are generally vague, tangentially related to my search, and never better results than what I turn up with my Google search itself.  Why would I waste time with them?  When newspapers and magazines purchase advertising, they pay up front, and do so because they know their material will be seen by readers, and possibly read.  Some magazines, e.g., fashion publications, are all  about the ads.  Pay-per-click ads generate revenue only when browsing people click on them.  Why do they click?  But click they do!

So…I come to this rather depressing prospect.  Google is reaping megabucks off of billions of clicks by vast millions of users who are clicking on ads that are of limited value simply on the hope, the misconception, the belief, reflex action? of responding to an advert.  Their business model is built on the bedrock of consumer acculteration.  Countless people wasting countless hours in pointless activity is making Google rich.  People love to shop, they love advertisements, and they are happy to be led down the primrose path by ads that promise much and deliver little.  Why not, it’s all free!  We pay only with our time and attention!


Privacy Screen?

February 18, 2008

Patio Privacy Screen

If you feel as if you’re living in a fish bowl when you’re lounging on the patio, we’ve got the solution. This simple, airy screen will block all but the most persistent prying eyes.

With all the fun and excitement about the Internet – social networking, blogs, websites, instant messaging – it’s easy to forget that big organizations are probably collecting a lot of information on you. I only recently started actively managing my cookies. (I have no interest in having Amazon.com managing my shopping experience online.) Along with the growing body of stories about outrageous e-mail gaffes by people who don’t know what Reply-to-All means, there are stories about relationships being torpedoed, job interviews fizzling, love affairs being discoverd because of Googling, Facebook, MySpace, and other public and not so public postings.

In an opinion today in the New York Times, Adam Cohen (yes, you’ll have to enable cookies and register to see the whole article) relates:

In a visit to the editorial board not long ago, a top Google lawyer made the often-heard claim that in the Internet age, people — especially young people — do not care about privacy the way they once did.

I suspect, rather, that the implications of the Internet keyboarding hasn’t hit them yet, hasn’t been brought him to them in a clear and brutal way (lucky them) and not that they just don’t care. Either that, or they just haven’t thought of it yet, or don’t understand the technology. As Cohen says next:

It is a convenient argument for companies that make money compiling and selling personal data, but it’s not true. Protests forced Facebook to modify Beacon and to ease its policies on deleting information. Push-back of this sort is becoming more common.

Well, I hope so.

And while we are on the subject, I just don’t get the economics of the Web! Google makes billions off of its advertising offers, but I have not yet clicked on more than a single handful of ads on the Internet in my ten years or more on the Web!! I don’t get it. I know that I may not be representative, but I have found that adds on Google are worthless: I am a very directed shopper. I know what I want, and I search for it. They say the Internet isn’t free because we pay with our attention, but who’s checking to see if we are paying?

When I have tried to do research on this point, all I find is confusion and debate. Is this another example of everyone doing it (advertising on the Web) because everyone else is doing it, and you cannot afford to be seen not doing it? Is anyone benefitting from it – besides Google? Is this consumer-chatter-clutter the price we have to pay for the use of the Internet?