Welcome to Generation GooglePatrick Lannigan - Summer 2002
One day my young daughter came home with a school project to research. I led her over to our Encyclopedia Britannicas and started flipping through indexes to find what she was looking for. (This, of course, was the magic moment when I, The Great Father, was going to show my daughter the value of a good encyclopedia, just like the good old days when I was a kid).
Ten minutes later, we hadn't found what we were looking for. So my daughter walked over to the family PC and typed her query into the Google search engine.
The answer appeared in 15 seconds.
Whoa! What happened? At first I thought we should have spent more time with the encyclopedias. But that seemed silly in light of the fact that the "answers" seemed to be ready and waiting for us on Google. So what did my daughter learn?
She learned that Google is a great, fast resource. Myself, I wasn't totally sure whether this was a good thing or not. Is there a price to pay for a change in behavior? Will we become dependent on Google? I think the answers to these two questions are yes and yes. Yes, we pay a price for our changed behavior, and yes we are now dependant on Google. The price we pay for our changed behaviour is time. Ironically, it has been proven that Google users spend more time using Google than other users do using other search engines, yet Google consistently ranks highest in the return of relevant results. Are Google users just hungrier for knowledge than other users or is there some addictive angle to be researched?
Iíve been looking at my own behaviour these days. Who can remember all those URL's? Even bookmarking is a pain, especially when you have collected a few hundred. These days, I rarely bookmark web sites. I just Google them. If I want to find out the latest skating schedule in Markham, Ontario, I just type "markham skating schedule". Dead easy.
Like millions of others, my wife and I use Google nearly every day. She gets most intense with Google when she's researching medical information (Google becomes Doctor Google). My son started using Google when he was three because he knew if he copied a significant word from his video (B-A-R-N-E-Y), he would shortly arrive at a web site with some fun games (Google becomes Gameboy Google).
Of course, our family is not unique. We use Google repeatedly for the same reason anybody uses anything repeatedly. It works.
Part of me says that I should feel some regret for losing the old way of looking things up. After all, if my children never learn the traditional research methods, won't it hurt their future education? Yet Google consistently gets the results. The right results. Google helps our family. Google is good. Perhaps wishing for the old methods of research is like wishing my children knew what life was like without DVDs, cars, indoor plumbing, an upright body, or multiple cells. Sometimes it's best to not look back.
Email Patrick Lannigan at lannigan at gmail dot com for more information
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