google-site-verification: googlea33552291e834fff.html Education: The Alexandria Complex

Saturday, January 9, 2010

The Alexandria Complex

At the American Historical Association meetings which I'm currently attending I dropped in on a panel discussing whether Google is good for history. Participants at the session identified many problems which Google has yet to redress adequately: the fact that Google�s landing pages don�t disabuse users of what one panelist called �the Alexandria complex� (the hubris to believe that all of the world�s knowledge might be contained in one place), that Google doesn�t clearly identify the limitations and biases that are inherent in online search, and that absent these warnings, Google may breed a level of epistemological trust in users that erodes the healthy skepticism upon which good scholarship depends. By and large I think Brandon Bader, the Googe rep, handled these criticisms gracefully especially in his willingness to acknowledge that he was a little �embarrassed� by the current interface in Google Books. Google might not be as transparent as librarians and academics would like it to be but it�s still playing an important role in democratizing access to knowledge. And while a Google search refracts and bends this knowledge, when used as a complement to other research techniques it�s good for history.

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