Listing entries tagged with google
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the least interesting conversation in the world continues 06.27.2006, 1:47 AM
Much as I hate to dredge up Updike and his crusty rejoinder to Kevin Kelly's "Scan this Book" at last month's Book Expo, The New York Times has refused to let it die, re-printing his speech in the Sunday Book Review under the headline, "The End of Authorship." We should all thank the Times for perpetuating this most uninteresting war of words about the publishing future. Here, once again, is Updike:
Books traditionally have edges: some are rough-cut, some are smooth-cut, and a few, at least at my extravagant publishing house, are even top-stained. In the electronic anthill, where are the edges? The book revolution, which, from the Renaissance on, taught men and women to cherish and cultivate their individuality, threatens to end in a sparkling cloud of snippets.
I was reading Christine Boese's response to this (always an exhilarating antidote to the usual muck), where she wonders about Updike's use of history:
The part of this that is the most peculiar to me is the invoking of the Renaissance. I'd characterize that period as a time of explosive artistic and intellectual growth unleashed largely by social unrest due to structural and technological changes.
....swung the tipping point against the entrenched power arteries of the Church and Aristocracy, toward the rising merchant class and new ways of thinking, learning, and making, the end result was that the "fruit basket upset" of turning the known world's power structures upside down opened the way to new kinds of art and literature and science.
So I believe we are (or were) in a similar entrenched period like that now. Except that there is a similar revolution underway. It unsettles many people. Many are brittle and want to fight it. I'm no determinist. I don't see it as an inevitability. It looks to me more like a shift in the prevailing winds. The wind does not deterministically affect all who are buffeted the same way. Some resist, some bend, some spread their wings and fly off to wherever the wind will take them, for good or ill.
Normally, I'd hope the leading edge of our best artists and writers would understand such a shift, would be excited to be present at the birth of a new Renaissance. So it puzzles me that John Updike is sounding so much like those entrenched powers of the First and Second Estate who faced the Enlightenment and wondered why anyone would want a mass-printed book when clearly monk-copied manuscripts from the scriptoria are so much better?!
I say it again, it's a shame that Kelly, the uncritical commercialist, and Updike, the nostaligic elitist, have been the ones framing the public debate. For most of us, Google is neither the eclipse nor dawn of authorship, but just a single feature of a shifting landscape. Search is merely a tool, a means: the books themselves are the end. Yet, neither Google Book Search, which is simply an apparatus for extracting new profits off of the transmission and search of books, nor the present-day publishing industry, dominated as it is by mega-conglomerates with their penchant for blockbusters (our culture haunted by vast legions of the out-of-print), serves those ends very well. And yet these are the competing futures of the book: lonely forts and sparkling clouds. Or so we're told.
microsoft enlists big libraries but won't push copyright envelope 06.14.2006, 2:42 AM
In a significant challenge to Google, Microsoft has struck deals with the University of California (all ten campuses) and the University of Toronto to incorporate their vast library collections - nearly 50 million books in all - into Windows Live Book Search. However, a majority of these books won't be eligible for inclusion in MS's database. As a member of the decidedly cautious Open Content Alliance, Windows Live will restrict its scanning operations to books either clearly in the public domain or expressly submitted by publishers, leaving out the huge percentage of volumes in those libraries (if it's at all like the Google five, we're talking 75%) that are in copyright but out of print. Despite my deep reservations about Google's ascendancy, they deserve credit for taking a much bolder stand on fair use, working to repair a major market failure by rescuing works from copyright purgatory. Although uploading libraries into a commercial search enclosure is an ambiguous sort of rescue.
in publishers weekly... 06.05.2006, 9:54 AM
We've got a column in the latest Publishers Weekly. An appeal to publishers to start thinking about books in a network context.
good discussion(s) of kevin kelly article 05.17.2006, 3:40 PM
...what I find particularly problematic is the way that Kelly's "analysis"--as well as most of the discussion of it--omits any serious mention of what is actually at stake in the utopian scheme of a universal library (which Borges, by the way, does not promote, but debunks). It has little to do with enabling creativity, but rather, with enabling greater corporate profits. Kelly is actually most close to the mark when [he] characterizes the conflict over digital books as a conflict between two business models. Of course, one gets the impression from some of Kelly's writings that for him business and creativity are more or less the same thing....
....A more serious consideration of these issues would move away from the "old" binary antagonisms that Kelly outlines (surely, these are a relic of a pre-digital age) and think seriously about how society at large is changed by digital technologies and techniques. Who has the right to copy or to make use of data and who does not? In a world of such vast informational clutter, doesn't power accrue to those who can afford to advertise? It is worth remembering, too, that searching is not, after all, a value-free operation. Who ultimately will control the searching and indexing of digital information? Should the government--or private corporations--be allowed to data mine the searches that people make? In short, who benefits and who loses from these technological changes? Where, precisely, is power consolidated?
Kelly does not even begin to deal with these sorts of serious social issues.
Will all these books and articles require we login to view them first? I think having every book, article, movie, song, etc available for use anytime is a great idea and important for society but I don't want to have to login and leave a paper trail of everything I'm looking at.
And we have our own little thread going here.
Posted by ben vershbow at 3:40 PM
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tags: Borges , books , digitization , google , google_book_search , kevin_kelly , newyorktimes , privacy , privatization , search , the_networked_book
if:book in library journal (and kevin kelly in n.y. times) 05.15.2006, 11:21 AM
The Institute is on the cover of Library Journal this week! A big article called "The Social Life of Books," which gives a good overview of the intersecting ideas and concerns that we mull over here daily. It all started, actually, with that little series of posts I wrote a few months back, "the book is reading you" (parts 3, 2 and 1), which pondered the darker implications of Google Book Search and commercial online publishing. The article is mostly an interview with me, but it covers ideas and subjects that we've been working through as a collective for the past year and a half. Wikipedia, Google, copyright, social software, networked books -- most of our hobby horses are in there.
I also think the article serves as a nice complement (and in some ways counterpoint) to Kevin Kelly's big article on books and search engines in yesterday's New York Times Magazine. Kelly does an excellent job outlining the thorny intellectual property issues raised by Google Book Search and the internet in general. In particular, he gives a very lucid explanation of the copyright "orphan" issue, of which most readers of the Times are probably unaware. At least 75% of the books in contention in Google's scanning effort are works that have been pretty much left for dead by the publishing industry: works (often out of print) whose copyright status is unclear, and for whom the rights holder is unknown, dead or otherwise prohibitively difficult to contact. Once publishers' and authors' groups sensed there might finally be a way to monetize these works, they mobilized a legal offensive.
Kelly argues convincingly that not only does Google have the right to make a transformative use of these works (scanning them into a searchable database), but that there is a moral imperative to do so, since these works will otherwise be left forever in the shadows. That the Times published such a progressive statement on copyright (and called it a manifesto no less) is to be applauded. That said, there are other things I felt were wanting in the article. First, at no point does Kelly question whether private companies such as Google ought to become the arbiter of all the world's information. He seems pretty satisfied with this projected outcome.
And though the article serves as a great introduction to how search engines will revolutionize books, it doesn't really delve into how books themselves -- their form, their authorship, their content -- might evolve. Interlinked, unbundled, tagged, woven into social networks -- he goes into all that. But Kelly still conceives of something pretty much like a normal book (a linear construction, in relatively fixed form, made of pages) that, like Dylan at Newport in 1965, has gone electric. Our article in Library Journal goes further into the new networked life of books, intimating a profound re-jiggering of the relationship between authors and readers, and pointing to new networked modes of reading and writing in which a book is continually re-worked, re-combined and re-negotiated over time. Admittedly, these ideas have been developed further on if:book since I wrote the article a month and a half ago (when a blogger writes an article for a print magazine, there's bound to be some temporal dissonance). There's still a very active thread on the "defining the networked book" post which opens up many of the big questions, and I think serves well as a pre-published sequel to the LJ interview. We'd love to hear people's thoughts on both the Kelly and the LJ pieces. Seems to make sense to discuss them in the same thread.
a2k wrap-up 04.25.2006, 9:35 AM
—Jack Balkin, from opening plenary
I'm back from the A2K conference. The conference focused on intellectual property regimes and international development issues associated with access to medical, health, science, and technology information. Many of the plenary panels dealt specifically with the international IP regime, currently enshrined in several treaties: WIPO, TRIPS, Berne Convention, (and a few more. More from Ray on those). But many others, instead of relying on the language in the treaties, focused developing new language for advocacy, based on human rights: access to knowledge as an issue of justice and human dignity, not just an issue of intellectual property or infrastructure. The Institute is an advocate of open access, transparency, and sharing, so we have the same mentality as most of the participants, even if we choose to assail the status quo from a grassroots level, rather than the high halls of policy. Most of the discussions and presentations about international IP law were generally outside of the scope of our work, but many of the smaller panels dealt with issues that, for me, illuminated our work in a new light.
In the Peer Production and Education panel, two organizations caught my attention: Taking IT Global and the International Institute for Communication and Development (IICD). Taking IT Global is an international youth community site, notable for its success with cross-cultural projects, and for the fact that it has been translated into seven languages—by volunteers. The IICD trains trainers in Africa. These trainers then go on to help others learn the technological skills necessary to obtain basic information and to empower them to participate in creating information to share.
The ideology of empowerment ran thick in the plenary panels. Ronaldo Lemos, in the Political Economy of A2K, dropped a few figures that showed just how powerful communities outside the scope and target of traditional development can be. He talked about communities at the edge, peripheries, that are using technology to transform cultural production. He dropped a few figures that staggered the crowd: last year Hollywood produced 611 films. But Nigeria, a country with only ONE movie theater (in the whole nation!) released 1200 films. To answer the question of how? No copyright law, inexpensive technology, and low budgets (to say the least). He also mentioned the music industry in Brazil, where cultural production through mainstream corporations is about 52 CDs of Brazilian artists in all genres. In the favelas they are releasing about 400 albums a year. It's cheaper, and it's what they want to hear (mostly baile funk).
We also heard the empowerment theme and A2K as "a demand of justice" from Jack Balkin, Yochai Benkler, Nagla Rizk, from Egypt, and from John Howkins, who framed the A2K movement as primarily an issue of freedom to be creative.
The panel on Wireless ICT's (and the accompanying wiki page) made it abundantly obvious that access isn't only abut IP law and treaties: it's also about physical access, computing capacity, and training. This was a continuation of the Network Neutrality panel, and carried through later with a rousing presentation by Onno W. Purbo, on how he has been teaching people to "steal" the last mile infrastructure from the frequencies in the air.
Finally, I went to the Role of Libraries in A2K panel. The panelists spoke on several different topics which were familiar territory for us at the Institute: the role of commercialized information intermediaries (Google, Amazon), fair use exemptions for digital media (including video and audio), the need for Open Access (we only have 15% of peer-reviewed journals available openly), ways to advocate for increased access, better archiving, and enabling A2K in developing countries through libraries.
—The Adelphi Charter
The name of the movement, Access to Knowledge, was chosen because, at the highest levels of international politics, it was the one phrase that everyone supported and no one opposed. It is an undeniable umbrella movement, under which different channels of activism, across multiple disciplines, can marshal their strength. The panelists raised important issues about development and capacity, but with a focus on human rights, justice, and dignity through participation. It was challenging, but reinvigorating, to hear some of our own rhetoric at the Institute repeated in the context of this much larger movement. We at the Institute are concerned with the uses of technology whether that is in the US or internationally, and we'll continue, in our own way, to embrace development with the goal of creating a future where technology serves to enable human dignity, creativity, and participation.
Posted by jesse wilbur at 9:35 AM
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tags: Education , IP , a2k , amazon , conferences_excursions , culture , google , human_rights , law , libraries , open_access , peer_to_peer , treaty , wireless , yale
google scholar 04.20.2006, 3:45 PM
Google announced a new change to Google Scholar to improve the results of a search. The results can now be ordered by a confluence of citations, date of publication, and keyword relevance, instead of just the latter. From the Official Google Blog:
It's not just a plain sort by date, but rather we try to rank recent papers the way researchers do, by looking at the prominence of the author's and journal's previous papers, how many citations it already has, when it was written, and so on. Look for the new link on the upper right for "Recent articles" -- or switch to "All articles" for the full list.
Another feature, which I wasn't aware of, is the "group of X", located just at the end of the line. It points to papers that are very similar in topic. Researchers can use this feature to delve deeper into a topic, as opposed to skipping across the surface of a topic. This reflects the deep user-centered thinking that went into the design of the results, which is broken down in more detail here.
Though many professors lament the use of Google as students first and last research resource, the continual improvements of Google Scholar and the Google Book project (when combined with access rights afforded by a university library) provide an increasingly potent research environment. Google Scholar, by displaying the citation count, provides a significant piece of secondary data that improves decision making dramatically compared to unguided topic searches in the library. By selecting uncredited quotations and searching for them in Google Book project, students can get information on the primary text, read a little of the additional context, and decide whether or not to procure the book from the library. I feel like I'm overselling Google, but my real point has nothing to do with any specific corporation. The real point is: in the future, all the value is in the network.
the social life of books 03.29.2006, 7:28 PM
One of the most exciting things about Sophie, the open-source software the institute is currently developing, is that it will enable readers and writers to have conversations inside of books -- both live chats and asynchronous exchanges through comments and social annotation. I touched on this idea of books as social software in my most recent "The Book is Reading You" post, and we're exploring it right now through our networked book experiments with authors Mitch Stephens, and soon, McKenzie Wark, both of whom are writing books and opening up the process (with a little help from us) to readers. It's a big part of our thinking here at the institute.
Catching up with some backlogged blog reading, I came across a little something from David Weinberger that suggests he shares our enthusiasm:
I can't wait until we're all reading on e-books. Because they'll be networked, reading will become social. Book clubs will be continuous, global, ubiquitous, and as diverse as the Web.
And just think of being an author who gets to see which sections readers are underlining and scribbling next to. Just think of being an author given permission to reply.
I can't wait.
Of course, ebooks as currently envisioned by Google and Amazon, bolted into restrictive IP enclosures, won't allow for this kind of exchange. That's why we need to be thinking hard right now about an alternative electronic publishing system. It may seem premature to say this -- now, when electronic books are a marginal form -- but before we know it, these companies will be the main purveyors of all media, including books, and we'll wonder what the hell happened.
Posted by ben vershbow at 7:28 PM
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tags: DRM , amazon , books , conversation , copyright , david_weinberger , ebooks , google , google_book_search , publishing , reading , social_software , the_networked_book , writing
academic publishing as "gift culture" 03.27.2006, 8:28 AM
John Holbo has an excellent piece up on the Valve that very convincingly argues the need to reinvent scholarly publishing as a digital, networked system. John will be attending a meeting we've organized in April to discuss the possible formation of an electronic press -- read his post and you'll see why we've invited him.
It was particularly encouraging, in light of recent discussion here, to see John clearly grasp the need for academics to step up to the plate and take into their own hands the development of scholarly resources on the web -- now more than ever, as Google, Amazon are moving more aggressively to define how we find and read documents online:
...it seems to me the way for academic publishing to distinguish itself as an excellent form - in the age of google - is by becoming a bastion of 'free culture' in a way that google book won't. We live in a world of Amazon 'search inside', but also of copyright extension and, in general, excessive I.P. enclosures. The groves of academe are well suited to be exemplary Creative Commons. But there is no guarantee they will be. So we should work for that.
Posted by ben vershbow at 8:28 AM
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tags: DRM , academia , amazon , copyright , ebooks , free_culture , gift_economy , google , google_book_search , peer_review , publishing , whuffie