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As if Google wasnâ€™t already getting enough attention in the mass media, now that fascination with Google is expanding into college classrooms. Courses about Google are appearing with greater frequency in college curriculums. These courses are typically offered in the computer science area, and often focus on the technical aspects of Google. But some newer Google courses are focusing on the search engineâ€™s impact on society or culture. One such course at Duke is doing just that. The course is called â€œGoogle: the Computer Science Within and Its Impact on Society“. The course is described as follows:
The Internet and World Wide Web have become repositories of the sum total of human knowledge, thoughts, intentions, and actions. Web search technology in general, and Google in particular, is the all-important tool we have today to extract actionable information from this vast mine of data. Millions of people use Google daily to satisfy their wants, needs, fears, and obsessions, which Google has transformed into an immensely successful and growing business. A not so obvious fact about Google is that its impressive array of services are based on basic concepts of Computer Science spanning information retrieval, databases, distributed systems, human computer interaction, artificial intelligence, and data mining. This course explores the science behind Google’s technology, the social and economic impacts of this technology, and the ethical issues (privacy and censorship) surrounding this technology.
Itâ€™s fine that faculty are developing courses that may assist students in better understanding how Google is changing our world. But a course like this seems to offer an opportunity to learn more about the library research environment as well, and where it fits into or is associated with the search engine universe. Some faculty who teach these Google courses may disagree. But for a faculty member to make a statement about the web as the â€œsum total of human knowledgeâ€â€¦well, thatâ€™s just wrong. It also sends a message to students that reinforces the myth that all the information theyâ€™ll need is available for free on the Internet. Creating a session in this course devoted to the library research environment would educate students about their information options, and provide awareness that the Internet doesnâ€™t have the sum total of all knowledge. After all, in a course devoted to Google, doesnâ€™t the library deserve some equal time.