Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Drinking the Kool-Aid

Recently, a friend came back from the Google headquarters in Mountain View, California, where she went to attend Google@School, a session that encouraged educators to use Google applications as instructional aids and course management tools.

Although the electronic slideshow makes it sound like users will have their privacy scrupulously protected, in the presentation Google representatives explained how they would be targeting alumni, for whom no federal privacy restrictions exist. In addition, although staff and faculty will have an advertising-free interface, disenfranchised undergraduates have to slog through cyber-pitches. (I love to think about the dystopian future in which the more money you earn, the less ads you have to watch on the job.) Note also how the slideshow presents a graph that shows that user-satisfaction with educational technology is actually rising, just not at the rate of exuberant acceleration that Google promises.

She said that they also served "google-tinis," martinis with light-up ice cubes at the event, so that the attending educators were encouraged to literally drink the kool-aid. You can see pitches from Arizona State University and Northwestern at the videos here.

What's wrong with this approach? It's choosing to privatize publicly-funded educational resources yet again. Most obviously, it's not open source, and so it actually undercuts the work of university-based computer science departments and libraries to develop alternatives like SAKAI.

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Blogger Lupton said...

Your comment about advertising reminds me of the refrigerators with computer screens on them. For a higher premium, you get one without ads. If you can't afford the deluxe service, your refrigerator flashes ads and coupons.

6:27 AM  

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