February 22, 2005

Academic Credibility?

If you're an academic who is attempting to battle what you perceive as American ethnocentricity proliferating world-wide, what would you do? Not that you necessarily see a whole lot of it outside of America, but you're trying to make sure that the American perspective isn't the only perspective available.

Well... if you're Jean-Noel Jeanneney of the National Library of France, you attempt to decry Google's honest attempts at increasing the amount of information available on the internet as reflecting a "unipolar worldview dominated by the English language and American culture."

Never mind that the internet is one of the best things to happen to information and education since the invention of the printing press. Never mind that Google is merely working with its five American partner libraries as a first step. Never mind that Google is working to ensure the respect of academic copyright and is going the extra mile to honor academic integrity. Never mind all of that... Jeanneney is going to bite the hand that is feeding academia because its first attempts at helping weren't diverse enough.

Look, I understand that an Anglo-centric and Euro-centric perspective is a bad idea. The rest of the world and America especially could benefit a lot from a diversity of information from various information sources of varying perspective. But everyone has to start somewhere, and I can't help but thinking that it's a whole lot easier for an American company with an American staff that is predominantly English-speaking would have a much easier time starting up this way and expanding its program to include foreign-language works in other countries. And I would think that an academic who was inclined to commend the short-term effects of Google's work would be intelligent enough to realize that it's far easier to catch flies with honey than vinegar.

Even bearing in mind that Jeanneney is at the forefront of mobilizing a digitization effort of European libraries, heaping unwarranted abuse on Google's doorstep is probably not going to accomplish much. If anything, this will disincline potential partners who come realize that the president of the National Library of France is a cantankerous and abrasive individual and that better partners may come from any number of other European libraries. Maybe I'm just reading a bit too much into this, but if I were the president of a library, I would like to think that I would have learned enough tact and political savvy not to go off and start publicity firestorms like this.

Just my $.02

Posted by Vengeful Cynic at February 22, 2005 03:34 PM | TrackBack