Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Google our Lives

Did you know that Google is making us more forgetful? According to research, and a recent survey the ease of simply “Googling” something is making the connections and links in our brains that form memory weaker. 

Instead of racking our brains, we reach for our devices.

It’s not all bad news though. Google is also changing the way we live for the better, and have come up with some clever stories. Remember the Superbowl ad for Parisian Love, highlighting what a clever little assistant Google Search can be? It’s smart, simple, original, and inexpensive. Who says you need a big budget to make a good ad?

I am a big fan of Google. Especially Google Search. But I recently realised that not everyone searches the same way. The Parisian Love story isn’t as relatable to some people, not because of its geographical distance, but because some people would just not think to ‘Google’ certain things. You see, I don’t use Search for when I can’t remember things, I use search when I have questions of the unknown. “Why do I get coffee breath?” “Why does garlic turn blue?” “Is it okay to eat uncooked cocktail sausages?” “What time does the sun set?” When working on a group assignment, a classmate pointed out how peculiar she found it; being dissatisfied with not knowing, and Googling everything.

Some people, perhaps those who are still getting used to our ever tech-infused world, still only use Google to ‘search’ in the traditional sense. Asking Google “Where is the best place to get coffee in Newtown” simply does not cross their mind. This may be why certain products, like the Google Glass, just seem to absolutely baffle people – they simply cannot understand the need for such a device. In this instance, I can’t help but wonder, does innovation match behaviour or dictate it?

While I can’t answer for sure, I did feel a deep connection with the recent Google Maps ad released last week. This is because it completely reflected my personal behaviour, something I thought no one else did. A behaviour that could have only been made possible with the innovation of Google and Maps.

Saroo Brierley found his way home using Google Maps. This technology not only makes navigation a breeze in our contemporary lives, it also breaks down barriers in space and time. 

The Maps video was so poignant for me because a year ago, I had done the same. Although I never went further than my screen and keyboard, my search was a similar one. I was born in China, and moved to New Zealand when I was five. Only glowing snippets of memory remain of my formative years. While I couldn’t simply Search for my missing memories, I used Maps to go back to my hometown, stroll its streets, and get a glimpse of faintly familiar sights. It was reassuring to know it’s still there.

Google is more than a search engine. And although we can argue about concerns over privacy, it would be difficult to say that Google isn’t trying to enrich our experience online. And although I can’t predict whether having Google infused with life is a positive or a negative, I can say that I will try to spend more time racking my brain when I forget.

Hongi Luo
Current student in the
Master of Marketing program at the University of Sydney Business School

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