Google and the Myth of Universal Knowledge: A View from Europe

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University of Chicago Press, Sep 15, 2008 - Language Arts & Disciplines - 96 pages
3 Reviews

The recent announcement that Google will digitize the holdings of several major libraries sent shock waves through the book industry and academe. Google presented this digital repository as a first step towards a long-dreamed-of universal library, but skeptics were quick to raise a number of concerns about the potential for copyright infringement and unanticipated effects on the business of research and publishing.†

Jean-NoŽl Jeanneney, president of France’s BibliothŤque Nationale, here takes aim at what he sees as a far more troubling aspect of Google’s Library Project: its potential to misrepresent—and even damage—the world’s cultural heritage. In this impassioned work, Jeanneney argues that Google’s unsystematic digitization of books from a few partner libraries and its reliance on works written mostly in English†constitute acts of selection that can only†extend the dominance of American culture abroad. This danger is made evident by a Google book search the author discusses here—one run on Hugo, Cervantes, Dante, and Goethe that resulted in just one non-English edition, and a German translation of Hugo at that. An archive that can so easily slight the masters of European literature—and whose development is driven by commercial interests—cannot provide the foundation for a universal library.†

As a leading librarian, Jeanneney remains enthusiastic about the archival potential of the Web. But he argues that the short-term thinking characterized by Google’s digital repository must be countered by long-term planning on the part of cultural and governmental institutions worldwide—a serious effort to create a truly comprehensive library, one based on the politics of inclusion and multiculturalism.†


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Google and the myth of universal knowledge: a view from Europe

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In this brief tract, part reasoned manifesto, part rant, the president of France's Biblioth√Į¬Ņ¬Ĺque nationale (national library) amplifies his concerns with Google's ambitious plan to scan the book ... Read full review

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I admit to being late to the game, but in light of the recent release of the book "Uncharted" about the creation of Google NGram viewer I feel that Mr. Jeanneney's work rings more important than ever.
Specifically to the concern for bias in the representation from a primarily Anglo-saxon dataset.


1 Remarkable Progress
2 At the Mercy of the Market
3 Hyperpower
4 The Difficulties of a Response
5 One European Search Engineor Several?
6 Organizing Knowledge
7 A Cultural Project an Industrial Project
A Broader Perspective
Translators Afterword

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About the author (2008)

Jean-NoŽl Jeanneney was the president of the BibliothŤque nationale de France from 2002 until 2007. Teresa Lavender Fagan has translated more than a dozen books for the University of Chicago Press.

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