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In search of something personal

In search of something personal

There is no such thing as standard Google. No matter where you log in from, or how much you scour your computer of cookies, Google tailors your search. Similar people get similar results. Every query is personalized. Across the board - in shopping, work and play, Big Data is personalizing consumer experience.

Turn the clock back a century, and you'll find the exact reverse trend. Cottage industry rolled back to make way for mass production. It was the great age of 'one size fits all' - the Model T, the working week, and the monolithic brand.

Industrialists bet on economies of scale, and the prestige of power to sell their products. Consistent experience, exemplified by McDonald's, was the benchmark.

Google is consistently in the top-ten of the world's most valuable brands. It would have come as a great surprise to the industrialists of the last century that Google changes its logo with every public holiday.

There is no standard Google, and it's rarely a standard logo that takes centre-stage on its domain. In the mobile market, there's no standard Google phone, and the company has co-operated with extensive repurposing and restructurings of its Android operating system.

Big Data allows the personalization of both service and message - but it also promotes it. Google encourages idiosyncrasy, serving results of local relevance, both geographically and intellectually. As Google aims to only serve that which we find agreeable and relevant, our taste and our context can only become narrower, and as a society, more fragmented.

I am sitting in a room where everybody knows the taste of Coca-Cola. Where everybody knows a few words from a Beatles song. It's more than likely you are too. This is probably the most bizarre trait, historically speaking, of western culture. The 'personalized experience', and Big Data, is putting this phenomenon's future in question.