Thursday, September 9, 2010

Google and the Premediation of Everything

If it wasn't already evident, events of the last few weeks should have made it clear that Google's new strategy is "the premediation of everything." Although Google was founded by Larry Page and Sergey Brin in the heyday of what Jay Bolter and I characterized as the double logic of remediation, its current media logic has much more to do with the affectivity and mediality of what I have been describing as premediation.

In its earliest incarnation Google aimed to revolutionalize internet search through its PageRank technology, employing remediation's twin logics, immediacy and hypermediacy, to structure its search interface. "I'm Feeling Lucky," still a signal feature of the Google search interface, offered the user an experience of immediacy, bypassing the mediation of the long list of extraneous results offered by other search engines like Lycos, Yahoo, or AltaVista, and sending the user directly to her desired website. But Google also offered users the hypermediated experience of pages and pages of search results, an experience that has only become more hypermediated over the years as Google added a multiplicity of search options (Images, Videos, Maps, Images, Shopping, etc.) as well as a variety of other search tools for organizing and representing its results.

As we enter the second decade of the 21st century, however, Google has come increasingly to shift its logic of mediation from remediation to premediation. An explicit expression of this new corporate logic appeared in a recent interview that Eric Schmidt gave to the Wall Street Journal. In describing Google's use of targeted advertising, for example, Schmidt portrays a fully premediated future in which Google's "technology will be so good it will be very hard for people to watch or consume something that has not in some sense been tailored for them."

But the quote that grabbed the most public attention (including William Gibson's in an excellent New York Times op-ed) was the one that best captured Google's commitment to the logic of premediation: "I actually think most people don't want Google to answer their questions," Schmidt elaborates. "They want Google to tell them what they should be doing next." As Schmidt makes clear, Google's aim is no longer to remediate the web through search, but to mobilize the individual and collective affectivity of anticipation that marks the premediated everyday of the 21st century.

Now Google continues its relentless campaign of premediation with its newest search feature, which it hyperbolically claims will revolutionize the search experience. Explaining its introduction of Instant Search, the Official Google Blog explains how its new Instant Search improves on earlier versions: "Because you don’t really want search-as-you-type. . . . You really want search-before-you-type—that is, you want results for the most likely search given what you have already typed."

The media temporality of Instant Search follows closely on the logic of premediation behind Schmidt's claim that "most people don't want Google to answer their questions... They want Google to tell them what they should be doing next." To answer someone's questions (no matter how immediately one does so) involves a past-oriented temporality of remediation. To provide them with search results before they type involves the future-oriented temporality of premediation.

Of course, the emergence of premediation does not do away with, but supplements, the double logic of remediation. This is nowhere more evident than in Google's stomach-turning video remediation of Dylan's "Subterranean Homesick Blues," as presented in D.A. Pennebaker's 1967 documentary Don't Look Back.

Indeed, if one were to couple Google's shift from the double logic of remediation to its newly intensified focus on the premediation of everything with its recent questionable collaboration with Verizon in relation to the question of net neutrality, one might want to say that the remediated Dylan video signals a shift in Google's corporate motto from "Don't be evil" to "Don't look back."

Just saying.