Friday, November 25, 2016

Enough is enough, Iceland shows how brands have hijacked knowledge

Women strike for equal pay in Iceland in 2015
Shop for fever tree on google and what comes up is a drinks company. When I type in air it comes up with airbnb, for chicken I am offered Jamie Oliver's recipes and for red, a magazine.

I was therefore delighted to hear on the World Service this morning that the government of Iceland has decided enough is enough and is challenging a supermarket about the use of the name of its country.

On the first google page for fever tree, there's not a single link to the tree. A wikipedia page is about the drinks company, the images are of bottles, related searches are for tesco, jobs, cola, tonic, share price and a band. I am five pages in before I find a definition that refers to the tree itself, a definition that describes it as a tall leguminous tree, Acaciaxanthophloea, from southern Africa, with yellow flowers.  It's not until I add the word 'plant' to its common name that I come up with a proper search.

It's a pretty similar picture for Iceland. The company that has a shop near the bus-stop in London Road and which I have possibly used only a couple of times in my life is the first to come up. Four searches down, ah, there's the country. 
Women have a day off in Iceland in 1975
to draw attention to lack of political power and equal pay

Like noise, light and air pollution, now brand pollution, the next Christmas game. Philosophy? Second to the study of thought is a skin care company. Love? An online fashion store and a magazine. Friday - of course, only Black Friday exists until I add 'the day' after it. Even then, Black Friday dominates.

There was a time when even a search for poetry came up with dresses but that's changed. It's still on the first page, but overwhelmed by the true meaning of the word, links to the Poetry Society, Poetry Foundation, Academy of American Poets and Poetry Archive.

I was so excited about computers after growing up with a typewriter, literally having to cut and paste with glue when I wrote features. It was liberating to be able to look something up without a dictionary or encyclopaedia. To have access to so much knowledge. So how has the internet been hijacked and, to quote Edwin Starr, what is it good for?

Now do something else. Google Brighton Poem-a-thon. And donate. It's happening on Sunday December 11 at Komedia Studio Bar in Brighton.