Google is history, Google (re)writes history


Institutional Communication Service

26 October 2018

Prof. Gabriele Balbi

Media History is, perhaps surprisingly, one of the most vibrant subject areas in the field of communication sciences today. In the context of ECREA 2018, "Communication History" will be in the spotlight with a dedicated track made of seven panels and several other meetings. In addition, looking at the program, many contributions presented at the conference will historicize communication, even in the case of digital media. But why is the historical approach to media so relevant also to look at digitization?

I believe the reason lies in the fact that digitisation already has its own history, made up of failures, paradigm changes, and unexpected uses that have emerged over time. Studying this story helps to understand, for example, how smartphones, the Internet and artificial intelligence are the result of a "natural selection" that has occurred over time. A selection that has allowed large digital enterprises such as Google, Apple, Facebook or Amazon to become the symbolic ‘hub’ of contemporary societies. This is part of what I will present and discuss at ECREA together with my colleagues at the USI Institute of Media and Journalism Simone Natale and Paolo Bory. We have called this process “Corporational Determinism” (in line with the most famous technological determinism), i.e. the shared idea that large digital corporations, which all have their histories, are now able to determine, change, shape and lead our societies. Google, for example, determines how we imagine our everyday life, how we search things, how we behave, and interact with other humans. In other words, Google is a metaphor for our society because it is able to drive its narratives. This will not last forever and also Google will become, like other media companies in the past, part of our past like dinosaurs are. But, like dinosaurs did millions of years ago, Google is contributing to write and shape our contemporary history now. 

ECREA 2018 is the international conference of the most important European association bringing together researchers active in the field of communication, and taking place in Lugano from October 31 to November 3 at the Palazzo dei Congressi. For details:

Institute of Media and Journalism

Further readings: