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iGoogle (this is not a typo)

Written By: Usree Bhattacharya on November 17, 2008 No Comment

As a hardcore Googler (is that already a noun?), I am maybe a little too proud of the pun in the title [iGoogle is a customizable home page offered by Google; and I want to say I Google (verb)]. Incredibly, millions of people reading this could ask: why does she feel the need to explain this? [Quick side note: I am aware millions of people are actually NOT reading this. This is a purely hypothetical statement, using exaggeration for effect.] The reference is hardly obscure. I Google, and it seems, so does everyone in the world (at least those privileged with Internet access). [And no, I am not getting paid for this endorsement.]

I Google

Over the past months, I read a series of articles (in preparation for a class) exploring whether Google is en-dumbing us (read this and this, for example). I won’t go into all the many issues these articles raise; however, I do want to speak to one aspect that I think some of these articles paid scant attention to. That is, the element of customizability. The incredible power of Google as an entity, for me, lies in its ability to cater to my needs in a very particular way (though sometimes it misses its mark, of course: when I visit my family back home in India, it’s a pain when Google privileges Indian sites when I am trying to access American news stories or sites; I know it’s trying to do the whole customizing thing, too, here, but this customizability is built around geography, in this instance, and fails to consider the question of my needs transcending that). But I must give it credit: Google, most times with (verging on the scary) uncanny accuracy, caters to my search-related whims and fancies. I am not its slave; it, I like to think, bends willingly to my will.

There’s another aspect that makes Google vital to my everyday life: Google (to a large extent) mediates my creation, revision, and evolution of self. When I say I Google, I don’t just mean the search engine; I use a variety of Google owned services, as many of us do, like Youtube, Picasa, Blogspot, and the stalkerish Google Analytics. I have my own Youtube account that I use to upload videos, Picasa to create, sort, and share albums, Blogspot to create my own personal voice online, and Google Analytics to track visitors to my personal blog. [This list would have been really complete if I Orkuted, but I don’t, and I won’t. That’s a separate blog post]. The search engine, is, inevitably, the tool I use most often, and helps me to find everything from scholarly articles, historical trivia, what the weather’s going to be two hours from now, where my old classmates are, and oh yeah, sure, I Google myself (in a world where many of us are Googleable, it helps to know what Google offers up about us-and what the hey-Google has made me, like others, intensely curious, about myself as well).

Google, for many of us, then, is not just a search engine juggernaut: it is a complex network of channels that facilitate a creation-and Internet-mediated dissemination-of this virtual self, and I am unclear what the points of intersections and divergences are from our “real” selves, if one argues that there is a “real” one distinct from the virtual. Maybe I should Google that?

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