Google is like White Bread, but is it sliced? (Part 1)
In the London Times Online, a recent article reported on a speech given by Tara Brabazon of the University of Brighton. Dr. Brabazon was cited to have made the analogy of Google being “white bread for young minds.” Further stating that the younger generations of students are too quick to accept the quick and easy research results they find on such tools as Google and Wikipedia. To correct this error, Dr. Brabazon doesn’t allow her first-year students to use either of the aforementioned tools in their research, but only 200 or so peer-reviewed journal articles selected by her. Though this action may help develop the students ability to evaluate found resources and to apply the information which is most relevant to their project; the students didn’t truly learn anything about the actual process of searching for those documents.
In essence, by telling the students that these sources aren’t worthy of academic consideration and then handing them a stack of selective articles only further removes the students from performing a critical action in research–exploration.
Dr. Brabazon further states that:
“Students live in an age of information, but what they lack is correct information. They turn to Wikipedia unquestioningly for information. Why wouldn’t they – it’s there,”
If one were to really dissect this statement, she is generally stating that Google and Wikipedia aren’t controlled by the same authoritative sources as say the OED, Britannica, or Nature. Whereas this may hold some water, the truth is that even these sources have been wrong and by limiting the possibilities for alternate views on a topic, you run the risk of allowing one source’s bias to influence the overarching facts.
The most annoying statement in this article wasn’t made by Dr. Brabazon, but instead was a generalized statement concerning the state of modern libraries. The author writes:
“With libraries in decline, diminishing stocks of books and fewer librarians, media platforms such as Google made perfect sense.”
All in all this statement is pretty much untrue. Libraries may be losing funding in some places, but they are most certainly not in decline. The stocks of books are necessarily diminishing but many titles that have been digitized or are held in multiple copies are being stored off campus. Lastly, there aren’t fewer librarians, if anything there are too many eager young librarians waiting to make a change in the library world. Through all these changes, Google didn’t make sense to anyone; in that it would be a replacement for a library.
In order to keep this post fairly short, I will continue this topic in a second post. 🙂
BTW the image at the top of the post is from Flickr Fight, and in no way represents my feelings towards the value of librarians vs. Google. (I am one remember.[Not a Google.])