Future of Google @ Club of Amsterdam

On: November 1, 2007
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About Tjerk Timan
During the last couple of years, I have been involved in Industrial Design at the Technical University of Eindhoven, both on the theoretical as well as the physical/practical side, always working on the boarder between the digital and physical. After an internship at Mediamatic, I wanted to get more involved in the digital side of new media. Currently, I am investigating the complex realm of new media [at] the master course New Media, UvA. With a thesis focus now on ‘objects that blog’ within the context of an internet of things, the challenge is to investigate the agency and influence of things. Especially when these things, being digital or physical, are capable of sharing, posting, editing, deleting content. And on who’s account? Within that same line of thought, the digital is often taking itself for granted maybe too much, where often the step towards WHO and HOW data is manipulated is left out of the loop. Taking these things back into the (design) loop is one of my missions, with the statement in mind that the way content is created and consumed has at least as much importance as the technology driving it. Furthermore, I am currently active within the Digital Methods Initiative at the University of Amsterdam. Also, I do some occasional freelance work, where disciplines differ from web-design to workshops to product design.


google 2084In a series of ‘future of’ events, the Club Of Amsterdam organized a future on Google symposium on the 25th of October at the Industrieele Groote Club. Four lecturers were invited to give their views on the history, status, and possible future scenarios of Google.
Also a discussion session was held, moderated by Simon Jones.

First up was Nils Rooijmans, who is Head of r&d ilse Media.
Within the Ilse company, which is still the largest dutch search engine, Rooijmans is working on the development and strategy of search engines. He states that Google is not only a search engine (technology), but also an advertisement company (business) and a media company (culture). Concerning the latter, the impact of Google on culture and the media landscape is the point of discussion.
In current discussions on this blog, one mayor issue is the authenticity of truth ascribed to Google, (Google as truth (f)actor)) by literary everyone (wikipedia-google discussion, for instance). Rooijmans explains that this discussion is rather irrelevant due to the fact, whether you like it or not, it is simply happening. He takes another point of view by taking a look at the definition of culture:
Culture’ (from the Latin cultura stemming from colere, meaning “to cultivate,”) generally refers to patterns of human activity and the symbolic structures that give such activity significant importance.
In other words, culture is about how knowledge is transferred in a society. By taking (a rather narrow) view on the history of this transferring, from sign to words to the printing press, it is stated that, where the printing press was about archiving of knowledge, the new search engine paradigm transforms the way in which we transfer knowledge. Search engines actually transfer knowledge itself. A critical question here (which was not addressed) is what searching than now means. Is searching for knowledge also creating (new) knowledge?
To continue on history, television and radio enabled ‘popular’ culture. Now, we can see a shift from mass media broadcasting towards interactive media like blogs. Where mass media was one way communication of knowledge, via new media tools, a discourse is emerging; a blog is interactive due to the fact that the system of commenting is adding to the ‘knowledge’ factor of the blog. The way to tap into this knowledge is via searching. The development of this search culture has lead to the filtering of knowledge to the top 10 of Google ranking (where we now know that after a 1000 results, the search becomes useless).
So, the power of knowledge lies now not only in its availability, but also in its accessibility (or, Google presence, in this case).
In giving a future scenario, Rooijmans shows the image of Google: 2084. Your brain and your ego will also become Googable.

The second speaker is Mario de Vries, a business consultant for Triple P.
In a time where Google is checking your every mail-movement, de Vries takes on a marketing view on what is happening with your data. Rather than creating new information, the focus is on the remixability/ re-use of information. The fact that your data is highly valuable and easy accessible is of course already known in the marketing world. The hot topic now is cross-media management. The example of the Eboman site as a free site, and a portal to information (see remarks on this in “is eboman 2.0 post“) shows that in a web 2.0 paradigm, everybody becomes his/her own advertisement company or brand, if you will.
A way to tap into this emerging possibilities is think of new models and views of a brand.
Synethesia (what actually comes down to experience design and ambient experience) is the phrase. Where even buttons become company brands and vice versa the iPhone is mentioned: its interface shows, for example, that a ‘ button’ is already virtual and becomes a portal a whole underlying co-brand.
Where a company is becoming its own advertiser it has to build a close community around its products and services where the value of information is only visible in context and ‘narrow casting‘.
By expanding their business from internet to television (a search engine for the multitude of content within digital television) Google will be even more present in creating and providing a platform for content. With a probable model of building profiles, paying via your Google setup box, the emphasis and business model here is ‘mass customization’, where I can access any tv content whenever I want (as long as I pay the subscription of course) and, also wherever I want:
De Vries expects a total immersion of the real and the virtual world via screens, where the content of this screens will become user-and location-dependent and the object name server will replace the domain name server.
As an example he mentions the add by Burger King with its Whoperettes. By crating your own set of ingredients online, the whole add movie is adjusted to you ‘taste’.
By connecting different platforms like television and internet via more and more ubiquitous displays, Google can guarantee a number of viewers in add-space, getting an even more firm grip on mediaspace.

In a whole different direction, Rocco van den Berg from Endemol, starts from a content-developers position.
With Endemol focusing on the increase of serious video channels, they have to think about models where there is room for user generated content. IPTV, via setup box or via broadband will be a billion dollar business by 2010. The big players now are myspace, youtube, joost and msn; all native web-developed platforms. The question for Endemol is how to get in as a production company. They are betting on interactive television and direct sales, in a combination of user generated content and subscriptions.
In creating and remixing content, Endemol is also working on re-using ‘old’ television content, by using the web 2.0 metaphor of tagging in order to find new ways of exploiting (did not like this connotation!) content.
In a joint venture called Xie, a new format is being developed to create something van den Berg called a ‘device independent service’. What he actually meant (small correction here) is of course a cross-platforms service, where internet, television and mobile phones are used to create a me-on-tv (quite narcissistic) kind of program.
Think Citizen Journalism versus Idols. If you’re wandering where the link with Google is, wander with me…
Critical question from the crowd was why users would want to pay for this service in consideration with a YouTube, MySpace etc.

For the final lecture, Arjen Kamphuis was introduced.
With the title of his presentation being “futureshock – don’t panic”, one cannot help but expect a techno-utopian story.
By starting of with a very quick technology history, from the first fist axe to traveling to the moon, Kamphuis states that instead of graduate change, we are right now undergoing an accelerated change in technological development. Where futurologists often tend to draw a straight upward graph, it is probably parabolic. Instead of creating “in the year 2020” scenarios, we should recognize that literally, future is happening now. With Google being the largest enterprise in world history, we should focus more on the dynamics now rather than postponing it to the future.
Where the printing press has left its mark on the speeding-up process of recreating and archiving knowledge, with the coming of Internet we are now really in the information age. The reason why we are still in offices and cubicles rather than working on the beach with our laptops, as sketched as the ideal office by Kamphuis, is a matter of a generation gap. Adjusting to computerized society is not fully saturated yet in all layers of this society. With computational power becoming ever more powerful, cheap and ubiquitous (warned you about the techno-utopian view…), next generation of man will look at computational power evrywere as a natural given.
He even goes as far as to say that nowadays already computers have the same computational power as a human brain, mentioning the chess-computer development and the Asimo-robot. He accidentally forgets to mention on what area/level. A personal comment here is that this ‘computational’ power is highly misunderstood by a large number of tech-utopian thinkers like Kamphuis. Even with this ‘computational power equivalent of a human brain’ we still are not quite there yet (link to article). Where computational power is here compared with knowledge, there is a significant difference; that of interpretation and adaptiveness of the surrounding world (the “outside”), this world being both functional and emotional. Without going into too much detail, the critique is that knowledge is not purely centralized and hierarchically computed, but moreover decentralized an embodied.
After this, a small link was made towards the prediction that man can actually fall in love with robots (article Levy in dutch).
I quite missed the link to Google here…

In the question what will will be the next step in all this web 2.0 hassle, peer to peer communication is marked as the future of sharing, but also of advertisements. Where the model used to be only payment per click, the next step is payment per sign-up, eventually ending up in cost-per-influence. So an abstraction of what something is worth digitally will take place; you are not going to pay for your connection or downloads, but for the amount of fun or entertainment value. Relevance is becoming more important than reach, where ‘we don’t want to choose, we want it all’.
Summarizing, (the rest of the discussion was not really going anywhere), the next Google will provide value other than advertising.

Google 2012
In a final question, all the panel members were asked to give their prognoses on what Google would look like in 2012;
One prediction is that of a Second Earth, a combination between Second Life & Google Earth. It was mentioned that this is actually already being developed. In a recent post by Pieter, more can be read on alternatives of Second Life.
Also, providing service especially for video within browsing and mobile phone technology is a direction Google is expected to take.
From a business perspective, getting in charge of minimal payments will close the last ‘gap’ in the development of Google as an advertisement and (cross)media agency.
With integrated web-service and the development of object name services, Google will definitely take up its share. If it still exists, that is.
On the prediction/ scenario that Google will go bankrupt, say, within a day (which is quite a possible scenario these days), the panel was very ambivalent. Kamphuis, for instance, said, taking a very relativistic stand, that this will be of no consequence at all. We will have many Googles in the future (with other two smart guys having an even better idea that Google). It would but give an global glitch that will be restored within the same day. The other panel members were more realistic, in pointing out the vast amounts of businesses and groups of people that are dependent on Google, both on the digital and physical infrastructure.

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