Wednesday, March 31, 2010

More Folk Have Been Googlized than Baptised

This kind of piggy-backs on Natalie's post, "The Cost of Google" (Mar 15).

As I browsed our New Books display today, I picked up and started to read, Googled: the end of the world as we know it / Ken Auletta. I can't say that I'll read all 384 pages of it, but 2-3 chapters of it will keep my interest.

Auletta, media writer/critic, explains the story of "Google's rise, its inner workings, success, massive growth, . . ."

So, even in Google's "adolescence" (2007-2008) Auletta cites that Google is too big (hiring 150 new employees/wk), it's lost its focus, and is going in 8 directions- images, Scholar, maps, iGoogle, YouTube, etc. etc.

Here's my example of Google trying to Googlize whole communities and moving in yet another direction: "Cities Try Silly antics to Grab Google's 'Golden Ticket' ".

Monday, March 29, 2010

Chronicle article:

I've never personally liked the idea--nor the experience--of e-books or other forms of extended on-screen reading. Perhaps others really like it, but I don't. I figured it was some sort of repressed-Luddite character flaw in me. The headline alone of this article above made me feel just a little bit vindicated!A study at Arizona State University has found that students had lower reading comprehension of scrolling online material than they did of print-like versions.

Students Retain Information in Print-Like Formats Better
The report, "To Scroll or Not to Scroll: Scrolling, Working Memory Capacity, and Comprehending Complex Texts," described how two groups, of 20 students each, wrote essays after reading materials in either in print-like or scrolling formats. Those given the scrolling versions to read had poorer comprehension of the material.

It is harder to keep track of where information is located within an online document versus the more-apparent page markers in a print-style text, said Christopher A. Sanchez, a co-author of the study. He is an assistant professor of applied psychology at Arizona State.

But the scrolling interface of online documents had little impact on the students in the study with high working-memory capacity, or a good ability to process and retrieve information. Mr. Sanchez said such people could have more cognitive resources able to remember static locations within an online text.

More study is needed on the impact that scrolling has on learning, he said, especially given the prevalence of online tools in the classroom and in distance learning.

"What it could do is give us recognition of how to better design materials so all people learn well, so we don't have this group of low-working-memory-capacity individuals who are behind the curve and are for some reason failing to learn when this material is in this scrolling form," he said.

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Cost of Google

Olivia Nellums is a Reference and Instruction Librarian at a community college in southern New Jersey. She blogs at The Librarian's Commute, and recently posited some interesting observations on Google that I thought I'd share here:

The Cost of Google
For the record, I think life with Google surpasses life with no Google.

But when reading The Case for Books by Robert Darnton last week, I had this tangential thought:

Google is not free. We act as though it is, because it certainly seems free (and fast, and easy), but there is a price nonetheless.


, when we search using Google, a commercial interest is deciding how information is shown to us. ... inevitably Google's ranking is strongly related to majority opinion, and situations are often more complex than the crisp results page implies. Digressing slightly, I think this is where librarians and other information professionals are still relevant.


, I'm sure lots of people, like me, are logged into iGoogle all day, and so our web searches and online activities are neatly tied to our names and other Google services. This is a goldmine! Think of all the data that is precisely harvested with this set-up! In exchange for using Google's services, I blithely give all this information away.


For a while, I have been wondering whether Google will ever get too big. I worry that what it started out as (web indexer, page ranker, data miner) is fast becoming confused with something else (Truth Teller, oracle, gatekeeper). ... Even if we wanted to, I don't think there is a way to stop or slow much of this, but I hope the more we understand, the more we can choose to be willing participants (or not). I hope that is what Google ultimately wants, too.