The Googlization of Everything

From my friends at the Institute for the Future of the Book today comes the launch of Siva Vaidhyanathan’s new book-in-progress, The Googlization of Everything. Siva, who is the Institute’s first Fellow, is writing this book in public in an attempt, as he says, to open the “black box” of its production, a project that MediaCommons likewise has at its heart:

I have never tried to write a book this way. Few have. Writing has been a lonely, selfish pursuit for my so far. I tend to wall myself off from the world (and my loved ones) for days at a time in fits and spurts when I get into a writing groove. I don’t shave. I order pizza. I grumble. I ignore emails from my mother.

I tend to comb through and revise every sentence five or six times (although I am not sure that actually shows up in the quality of my prose). Only when I am sure that I have not embarrassed myself (or when the editor calls to threaten me with a cancelled contract ‚Äì whichever comes first) do I show anyone what I have written. Now, this is not an uncommon process. Closed composition is the default among writers. We go to great lengths to develop trusted networks of readers and other writers with whom we can workshop ‚Äì or as I prefer to call it because it’s what the jazz musicians do, woodshed our work.

Well, I am going to do my best to woodshed in public. As I compose bits and pieces of work, I will post them here. They might be very brief bits. They might never make it into the manuscript. But they will be up here for you to rip up or smooth over.

That’s the thing. For a number of years now I have made my bones in the intellectual world trumpeting the virtues of openness and the values of connectivity. I was an early proponent of applying “open source” models to scholarship, journalism, and lots of other things.

And, more to the point: One of my key concerns with Google is that it is a black box. Something that means so much to us reveals so little of itself.

So I would be a hypocrite if I wrote this book any other way. This book will not be a black box.

Join in the discussion of the text as it develops there. I hope that the folks at MediaCommons can also discuss the implications of that text’s development; what can we learn from Siva’s experiment with writing-in-public?

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