Sunday, August 21, 2011

Google Creating Culture Online

Alan Noble, Engineering Director, Google Australia and New Zealand, talked on "Supporting Culture Online - How Google is working to preserve the world's cultural heritage, both by making it accessible and providing platforms for the creativity that enriches culture to thrive" at NICTA in Canberra, 19 August 2011. This was unlike the technical presentations which Google staff give at the Australian National University in Canberra a few times a year. This was a talk for a more general audience, saying what Google does, but lacking technical details about how Google does it.

Alan discussed several Google projects to digitise books and works of art at great galleries and libraries of the world. But also projects to put lesser known culture online. This included projects to encourage oral traditions of the third world to be put online for the first time (Alan also speculated about how much is being lost through the extinction of indigenous languages in Australia). A cynic might say Google is doing this simply top have more web content to put ads on and make money out of. But in the main, Google does seem to be genuinely trying to "not do evil" and provide a cultural contribution (even if does happen there is then more content for them to put ads on).

Alan's talk reminded me of a Workshop on the Use of Technology for Museums of the Pacific Islands Region I conducted in 2005 for the International Council on Museums, UNESCO and ANU. The museums of pacific countries are very vunerable to natural disasters, particularly cyclones and tsunami (the Apia museum we visited was on the seafront, less than a metre above sea level).

Alan also mentioned working with UNESCO on preserving cultural works and opening an office in Paris. I suggested that the Google staff might like to pop along to the UNESCO office in Paris. I had noticed that there were some artworks in the cafeteria on a visit in 2000.

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