White Space is Your Friend

The Internet. 

Unfathomable amounts of information, every sort imaginable, is available on the Internet. Advice, how-to’s, consumer goods, and entertainment of every kind—aid every faucet of our lives—available on the Internet.

One website has grown to become the tool to access this invaluable resource bank. The English language has even adopted its name for use as a verb in honor of its ascent. Google logoNo. Users don’t just search the net; they: google, googled, or are googling it.

Try approaching a stranger and advise them to “Go ‘Ask Jeeves’ yourself” or “Yahoo it” and the response will likely be a blank stare, possibly even a slap in the face. But a suggestion to “Google yourself” and everyone understands the implied message of vanity.

There have been other search engines—WebCrawler, Lycos. . . . Even Bing is currently in the midst of an unsuccessful marketing effort to verbicize itself, but only the annoying jingle persists. Google, alone, remains the clear-cut leading resource deserving “verb” status.

Burke’s Dramatism Pentad

Literary theorist and philosopher Kenneth Burke developed a model of dramatism that includes five considerations when evaluating the effectiveness of rhetoric: agent, agency, scene, act, and purpose. Let’s apply these five attributes as a means to evaluate the effectiveness of Google’s rhetoric.

So, who is Google? Or maybe the question is better asked as “What?” Google’s purpose is, dare I say omniscient (insert gasping crowd reaction), as the gateway to all things knoGoogle home pagewing. But is Google the agent in this example? I argue, yes, but only for a brief moment. Through the act of asking the question: “What shall I find for you?” Google initiates the first act as an agent, but then shifts the roles of agent, act and purpose to the user.

Accessing Google calls forth near nothingness, literally; but Google is brilliant in its simplicity. The emptiness of the scene is actually its strongest feature (beyond the intricacies of its search engine technology, of course). Google’s design aesthetics beckon users to fill in the blank—to  ponder, even explore.

More from GoogleEffectively harnessing the power of the net, Google expresses its strength without cumbersome impediments, creating boundless opportunities. But perhaps that’s not enough for users. Or maybe Google’s beckoning blankness conjures recent fears of writer’s block or the frustration felt while experiencing the absence of a deft response to a late detected, veiled insulting quip. To appease fears, or more likely to expand its services, Google offers more.

A personal favorite of mine during these economically challenging times is an adventurous journey with my Google pal “pegman.” Just this past summer I returned to scan the streets of my home town when I couldn’tGoogle Pegman on the street afford travel expenses to see my high school mates during our (ahem) 30th class reunion—a virtual trip down memory lane, if you will. Also, I traveled to Paris for creative writing inspiration. This particular trip served a dual purpose as a house-hunting excursion—and another, more recently, to Port Isaac, UK. Google enables users to literally (well, virtually literally) explore the world, not just the World Wide Web.

Oh, and there’s shopping and news and stuff included in Google’s additional features. Again, Google’s blank canvas allows users to set the tone of their experience on the site—or using Burke’s terminology, agency.

Screen shot of iGoogleContent Design and Performance

But… there are those of us who may be intimidated by white space. For that, Google offers customization versatility with background choices available from Google as well as the limitless user submission possibilities, numbering as vast as the world’s population. The only catch, users have to sign in.

Google Chrome advertisementAnd for those of us who embrace white space like a long lost friend, do you find the shameless marketing appeal to download Chrome invasive? If the answer is “yes,” I’ve got good news. It goes away with a simple click. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could get our television commercials to do the same?

A small criticism, indeed, but I have one more small issue: “I’m Feeling Lucky”—that is, until I select the option. The first time I felt lucky, I hoped to glean some little tidbit of information or factoid to warrant an “ah ha” response. Instead, I found myself embroiled in yet another marketing ploy. Well, embroiled may be an exaggeration. The “lucky”Google I'm Feeling Lucky journey takes the user to a place abundant with different variations of Google’s identity, each one encompassing a cultural appeal that has some social relevance. It’s Google’s effort to display the celebrations of varying peoples illustrating its global context. Okay, maybe I felt a little lucky.

Ultimately, Google’s simplistic design is easily accessible on multiple devices, and portable for whatever adventure the user defines. And because the user defines each personal Google experience, evaluating Google’s rhetoric is as varied as the skill sets of individual users. There’s a certain level of skill required that determines which string of text users supply to Google’s inquiring blank space. Application of that skill is the difference between wading through hundreds of thousands of returned links from a topic too broad, to getting a rich return from a well-defined parameter using tricks like enclosing the text string within quotation marks. However, those skills are applicable protocol to whichever search engine website the user selects.

Google’s sustainability must maintain. After all, the English language embraces Google as a verb. And the inquisitive nature of the human mind will always answer the beckoning call to fill in the blank space. Is white space really our friend?

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~ by lookATLANTA on November 30, 2011.

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