The Google YouTube Tango

In one corner, we have the Googlization of virtually every aspect of our online (and increasingly offline) activities, tracking your every move.

In the other corner, we have the increased corporatization of Web 2.0, also interested in watching everything you do in those oh-so-cool social networking spaces.

The twain hath met.

Jeffrey Chester at The Nation points out how Google’s purchase of YouTube represents the creation of the latest cog of “a powerful interactive system that is being designed to serve the interests of some of the wealthiest corporations on the planet”:

Advertisers are harnessing technology that targets and follows Internet users on their journeys through cyberspace, collecting data and tracking behavior. Virtual software marketing tools will be deployed across the digital landscape so that wherever we go, whatever we do do–e-mail, instant messaging, mobile communications or searches–we will be immersed in enticing content for the lifelong sell

…as the Goo-Tube model develops, behind each video will be a powerful connection to an ad, targeted to the user’s online behavior, as well as the stealth collection of personal data. As Ross Levinsohn, president of Fox Interactive, noted about his company’s acquisition of MySpace, “the digital gold inside of MySpace wasn’t the number of users, but the information they’re providing.”

…Given this emerging marketing model, the US broadband infrastructure may well become one giant “brandwashing” machine. The most powerful communications system ever developed by humans is increasingly being put in the service of selling, commercialization and commodification. And it will lead to an inherently conservative and narcissistic political culture, in which the interests of the self and the consumption of products are the primary, most visible, media messages. And unless we begin to challenge it now, the emerging digital culture will seriously challenge our ability to effectively communicate, inform and organize.

Chester closes will a call to ensure sure that “public interest remains in the picture” amid these Internet mergers and formation of vast online marketing information networks, that “we must work together to build an online culture that not only pitches products but works for equity, social justice and the riches of a civil society.”

This is a primary goal of the value-conscious design framework I support in my scholarship, but moments like this make me wonder if I should shift my job search from the halls of academia to the realm of advocacy and activism

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