“Inhabited institutions” and Google

15Nov11

Google is a fantastic example of an “inhabited institution” within media work (Deuze, p. 235.) In order to understand these inhabited institutions, Deuze argues, “we must critically and reflexively look at their embeddedness, as is: everyday interaction rituals and formal organizational structures, and the ongoing construction and negotiating of meaning by the people involved [..]”

A recent Guardian article talks about  TechHub, a Google-backed workspace that is steadily making its way through Europe only a year after start-up. I think Google is a terrific example of the fluidity of media institutions, and speaks to the importance of looking at the “embeddeedness” of the institution. After all, no one would argue against the cultural significance of Google, and yet what exactly it is that they do as a company is not so easy to pin down. They don’t just “record music” or “make movies.” What started as an internet browser has quickly become a prolific company that creates a variety of web tools and resources that have shaped, and been shaped, the experiences of web users world wide. The significance of Google is not simply in their web browser or their economic success, but in the meaning assigned by both the employees and users of Google media that have given Google the prominence it now holds within our digital culture. It’s continued exploration and development of new tools – such as branching into social networking with Google+ – show how Google is under “ongoing construction” which contributes pretty directly to how people view -and are thus able to negotiate the meaning of – the Google enterprise, a media insitution inhabited by “people and their doings,” the doings which create the Google image and brand.

– Shannon

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