Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Google, Isaiah Berlin, Guobin Yang

I've been posting much to a
tumblr - EXCURSUS II -- for ease of access, esp. since the interface makes it easier to pop on links or images I find interesting during the course of the workday. While browsing the Social Science Research Council's mash of articles, I came across a great article on Google's projected China exit by Guobin Yang (one of the real academic leaders on the political implications of networked communications there.) "Why Google Should Not Quit" makes an interesting pivot on the ways in which the exit would shift both positive ("to do", capabilities) and negative freedom ("freedom from", non-interference) in the PRC, arguing that the censorship landscape would essentially not change (negative freedom won't be affected) BUT that the reduction in competitiveness may lead to a more impoverished internet landscape generally (reducing positive freedom.) he says:
"It is hard to imagine Google continuing to operate in China by censoring its search engine as if nothing had happened. But neither can I imagine Google retreating into its inner citadel. I find it unlikely, as Isaiah Berlin might put it, that when faced with two methods of freeing itself from the pain of a wounded leg, one of difficulty and uncertainty of finding a cure, the other of cutting it off, Google will opt for the second. Perhaps we will soon see another moment of Google creativity."
More potently, I do wonder whether this is the beginning of a great divergence in global information landscapes.