On 16 February, 2011 Steve Kolowich published an article, "Google's Gadfly" on Siva Vaidhyanathan and his views on Google in Inside Higher Education.
. . . .The Virginia professor, who is not afraid to confess his affection for the ease and usefulness of Google, nevertheless distrusts the company’s basic motivations as it vies for our intellectual inheritance. “Google has fostered a more seamless, democratized, global, cosmopolitan information ecosystem,” he writes. “Yet it has simultaneously contributed to the steady commercialization of higher education and the erosion of standards of information quality.”
Google does not reward our impulse to know, Vaidhyanathan argues; it exploits it by making it appear as though knowing is easy. “The ways that Google structures, judges, and delivers knowledge to us exacerbate our worst tendencies to jump to erroneous conclusions and act on them in ways that cause harm,” the professor writes. Meanwhile the company keeps collecting, on behalf of its advertisers, the wealth of personal information that we feed it in exchange for this flattery, then pats its own back all the way to the bank.
Vaidhyanathan’s point is not that Google has scammed us. He attributes the ascension of Google to a “public failure” — negligence by public stewards to preempt the privatization of knowledge and learning in the switch from analog to digital. In other words, we should have seen this coming. Did Google’s academic bloodlines lull higher education into passively supporting Page and Brin as they quietly absconded with the family jewels? Perhaps, but Vaidhyanathan is less concerned with how we got here than where we are and where we’re going. Accordingly, he proposes a sprawling effort by libraries and like-minded institutions that would essentially give Googlers a public option. “The future of knowledge — and thus the future of the species — depends on our getting this right,” he writes. . . .