Sunday, June 23, 2013

The death of the telegram, who's next? Google search – From indispensible to dispensable?

I have been reading nostalgic articles by people much older about the trajectory of the telegram – how it was so revolutionary and how immensely if affected and changed their lives and how now something that was so indispensible has been rendered redundant. It got me thinking what piece of technology impacted me immensely and changed the way I function and instantly Google search pops to mind. When I was in lower classes in school there was nothing like Google search. And that has me thinking, so how did I study? I wasn’t one who frequented the library, rarely so. There were many books on the shelves at home but I preferred they remain there neatly stacked. I realize I mainly looked to my text books, a Self-study series and a few other educational books that my mother insisted were essentially a part of my course (though they weren’t). In those far away days I remember the computer as a tool to either play games or unleash my artistry with Paint. Either I was too lazy to discover its potentials or probably most kids my age had restricted their knowledge to the same extent. I hope the later is true. As I entered higher standards the computer evolved into a tool to assist in making projects. The scourge for relevant pictures was immensely curtailed by Google search. Yet in those days I’d print the pictures and stick them onto chart papers, unlike my nieces who conveniently paste everything onto PPT slides, transfer the file onto a pen drive and leave for school without any hassle. I remember my projects to be at the other end of the no hassle spectrum. I would employ water colours, felt pens, occasionally glitter. My master piece would occupy the central position in the house, sprawling across the floor, and would block convenient passageway. It would leave visible marks on the floor, walls and of course me and my clothes. It was never hassle free neither was the process neat. But I must say I am proud of each and every one of those charts. To me they were all my own Mona Lisas and definitely more cheery and vibrant. I am not certain whether the feeling of creation with a similar intensity can be generated by a PPT. But it is definitely much cleaner to carry a pen drive, especially during the rains, than my masterpieces. Coming back to my developing relationship with Google search. As I moved onto college the strain of excessive and elaborate chart papers was off my back. There was no Work Experience or EVS. So now if I used Google search it was with no specific purpose. However, even though chart papers were off my back I realized a new burden was to be added called – reference. Apparently, while in college there isn’t anything like one or two authoritative books of medium size in which a complacent person may repose her trust. One has to go to the library and read through tomes for any decent degree of study. And so I tentatively entered the library. There were walls of books on all sides of me. I could choose from where I wished to study. I gathered my own material. Strangely, I liked the power I wielded over the contents of my study material. Sometime around then I discovered what happens if I search for material on Google. A plethora of information was just a click away and within the confines of my house. The significance of this statement may seem ridiculous to those younger to me who have grown up when ‘Google’ was not just a proper noun but also a verb. However, I have experienced its evolution into a verb and yet it evolved into a verb early on in my life so even though theoretically I know I have lived in a Google – less world I can’t imagine getting through this day without Google. I realize people must have felt the same way about telegrams some day. And yet life seems much easier without them (and with Gmail). This makes me dwell upon the corollary that one day Google search will be rendered redundant. Will ‘to google’ then appear in the dictionary as archaic. old use. in ancient days enabled people to locate information based on keywords from a virtual information cloud. And if the telegram is replaced by instant emails what would replace Google search? Would I have a devise so connected to me that it detects my very thoughts and instantly generates only relevant results and collates them in a format uniquely suitable for my requirements? Realistically, I look forward to days of e-libraries. With the advent of availability of Google search on phones one has immense information and e-books not only a click away but the click itself is merely a pocket away. And yet I feel the necessity of visiting a good library from time to time. And this is not owing to my loyalty to or nostalgia for tangible objects. Google search makes available a wide variety of information, connects me to articles and research papers, books and scholarly treatises, magazines and novels and so on and so forth. I have access to some of these for free and some need to be purchased. Whereas some scholarly treatises that have been traced are yet in the libraries as hard backs. Once all this knowledge is converted to e-format and made available by e-libraries for a reasonable fee, probably the best e-library that can guarantee complete and unrestricted access to all the search results that encompasses everything from trivia to scholarly treatises might render both Google search and libraries redundant. A beginning in this direction, that I am aware of, is British Council’s ebrary. Though it has a very limited collection as yet. The mind boggles at the contemplation of the convenience that shall be derived from the device that necessitates that we bid farewell to Google search.

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