Saturday, January 28, 2006

The Power of Search

Yesterday I was working in the lab and we happened to use the ol Google search to find examples of Pygmy art. Surely there must be something. The word "Pygmy" returns a crazy mix sites about everything from a mysterious race of small people who may have once lived in North America to the breeding association of pygmy goats (once again North American). Among this collection are a few sites about the indigenous peoples of central Africa. The more specific "Pygmy People" returns sites on the Mbuti and Baka Pygmies and there are several excellent sites providing information on these people from the perspective that they must be "helped" (subjects in need).
Looking for "Pygmy Art" is another matter altogether. While there are masses of sites about the vast collection of people called "Pygmy" (1 290 000 returns on Google) they seem to be almost entirely from the outsiders perspective (I have looked at the first 10 Google pages). The number 1 site for Google on Pygmy art returns a text site that explains briefly some of the contexts of the art of the Pygmy and then links to this site:

"Homo floresiensis ("Man of Flores") is a species in the genus Homo, remarkable for its small body, small brain, and survival until relatively recent times."

So now I am starting to get annoyed! Then comes the image search on Google. The number one image returned by Google for a general pygmy search is a picture taken in 1967 of a towering male American worker from the United States Agency for International Development. This image looks like it could have come from a Brave Sons of the Empire annual of the 1800's.

Following this I read in this months Time magazine an article of irritated tone about the proposed new so-called European search engine Quaero (Such is the power of the new search engine that the website about it can only be accessed by password!!). The article begins proposing Quaero as a multimedia search engine and ends with it as an attempt to challenge Google. The Time article is dismissive of the attempt citing several problems any such proposal would have to confront. All of these problems are actually forms of United States based resistance to such an attempt. What I thought was interesting is the emerging ideology of a search engine.
There is in my mind as well the recent scandals from team Google concerning cutting off access to information from the general media (Google snubs tech news outlet) when the company disagrees with coverage of its activities. As well the news this week that Google co operates with Chinese government censors. Interesting from Blogdial:
Google Image search Tianmen
Google Image search Tiannmen in China
As Irdial states "what would you do? Let M$ run you out of China, or establish a foothold now with a reduced /censored service knowing that maybe in ten years China will open up completely." Of course I don't think anyone is banking on a free China, just a lot of rich customers.
It is clear from my brief struggle with the antiquated term "Pygmy" that every question already contains the parameters of the answer within it. Those who supply access to knowledge can dictate the contexts that knowledge takes and how it is applied to real world situations. In light of this I say, the more search engines the better:

Ask Jeeves
Telephone directory Sweden
Telephone Directory United Kingdom
Guide to Academic Search Engines
wayback machine
ixquick Swedish search engine
Literary Resources on the Net
Mamma Metasearch
Scholarly Online Journals
ACM Portal
The Collection of Computer Science Bibliographies
Vivisimo Clustering Software
Search 197,940 bookmarks
Australian Search engine
Global Marketing and Business search
Galatea Image search
Online Video Aggregator
Fire Ant TV

Finally an article on searching...Always searchin:
Finding Information on the Free World Wide Web

"We propose that a solution for the academic community might be a metaÂ?search engine which would allow search queries to be sent to several specialty search engines that are most relevant for the information needs of the academic community. The basic premise is that since the material indexed in the repositories of specialty search engines is usually controlled, it is more reliable and of better quality."

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