"When U.S.-based Google announced plans in December to undertake the cost of digitizing the world's books and making them searchable to the public for free, France called foul, with the country's top librarian complaining loudly of yet another example of "crushing American domination." (…)The motives may seem obvious to Americans accustomed to mocking European pretensions; but, in fact, there is more to this than an anti-U.S. reflex. At its heart, the library face-off highlights a mix of anxieties -- from historical influence to commerce to technology -- exacerbated by fears that search engines are poised to become the great new gatekeepers of culture. (…)
France is not without its bragging rights in technology circles. French communications equipment maker Alcatel continues to maintain a sizeable market share worldwide. Germany-based Infineon Technologies is a leading DRAM supplier and STMicroelectronics in Switzerland has successfully carved out a niche in multimedia semiconductor components.
Nevertheless, despite liberal investment in government-sponsored projects and industry subsidies, Europe is largely missing from the PC and internet revolutions.(…)
In an interview with Wired News, Jeanneney claimed that the EC's online library project is not so much about France's and Europe's dependence on U.S. technology, but instead addresses concerns about the historical footprint that Google will make. If Google's power remains unchecked, Jeanneney argues, it could unconsciously taint how future generations perceive and interpret not only the internet but the whole sweep of Western history and culture.
"The main issue of this project is not one that involves national pride, but it is necessary that the history of the planet (in the digital world) be communicated not only through an American medium, but one that is European -- or even Asian -- as well," he said.
"Today, journalists as well as educators increasingly use the internet and, specifically, search engines, such as Google, to do their research," Jeanneney said, "which shows how it is essential that there is multilateralism, not in the military or diplomatic sense, but in how information is made available and distributed around the planet during the decades and centuries to come."
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