In case you missed it, “Google and the World Brain” (a reference to the H.G. Wells essay collection of the same name) is a new documentary project that made a few waves recently. It just screened at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, and this is one I am quite keen on seeing.
The Google Book Scanning project is an incredibly interesting, complicated — and important — part of the near-future of books, all books. I’ve read a few early reviews on World Brain, alternating between vilifying and exalting, so it’s hard to form an opinion without being able to watch it firsthand.
In the meantime, The Hollywood Reporter (“Google and the World Brain: Sundance Review“) offers a few things to ponder –
“Beyond questions over how to deal with copyrighted work — manageable, one imagines, however tricky the negotiations — lie bigger worries. There’s privacy, obviously (a universal online library will always know what you’re reading) and unintended consequences, like the reshaping of global culture: If searches for Proust and Goethe prioritize English translations, will the originals fade from view? Like anyone acquiring great power, Google trusts itself to handle these issues wisely. But observers note a tendency within Google (seen in the Wi-Fi-collecting scandal tied to Street View) of building tech first and worrying over consequences later.”
And, here’s a useful review at Film School Rejects (the Kevin Kelly clarification made me laugh, because it was my first reaction):
‘Unfortunately, Google didn’t participate in this documentary other than to allow the filmmakers to speak with them about their Google Search function. Google Books was off-limits, and the only video from inside their scanning operation is just six seconds long, and it doesn’t show much. In an effort to try and draw you into the conversation, the film uses extensive video from other book scanning facilities around the world, notably at universities and large collections.
The main argument presented here is whether or not Google’s usage of the scanned book is ethical or not, given the fact that they were offering copyrighted works for free online and were also using the scanned books to improve their own search algorithms, and by extension, improve their business.”
And you can visit the documentary’s official website here.