How participating can wipe somebody’s tears away: Google Person Finder

Audience participation is so mundane in contemporary media environment that it had stopped being an issue. It is not new, it is not extraordinary and it is definitely not something that could get you excited or ‘touched.’

But guess what, Google knows better.

It launched a project called Google Person Finder to enable people to ‘let the world know they are looking for someone,’ for whom ‘individuals and organizations provide information.’ The service has been constantly proving to be incredibly effective in the event of natural or humanitarian disasters, when the demand for knowledge is at its peak. During the earthquakes in Nepal in 2015, people became more engaged than ever.

Google Person Finder was labelled as a remarkable success. With users’ information reports reaching record numbers, it celebrated participatory culture at its finest.

Could it be that we, the tireless online wanderings, have finally found a greater purpose? Was this the revolution of participatory culture: both in nature and aim?


Gathering such a colossal ‘database’ may have been under the ‘guardianship’ of Google, but what ‘fuelled’ and popularized it was the user. For within the context of this online service, he has underwent a revolution.

It could be argued that this is the supreme end of ‘media literacy:’ the knowledge about how to use the Internet and other online services effectively and intelligently (Kellner, 2002, cited in Allan, 2013). Given the opportunity to contribute to dealing with a serious global issue, users prove to be surprisingly responsive.

Was it their spare time or had they felt a transitory urge to fulfil themselves as citizens of the world?

It is arguable. What Google has doubtlessly managed to achieve here is the creation of a large global community, assisting people to discover the whereabouts of their lover ones during disasters. Promoting togetherness and connectivity with such efficiency is indeed a rare occurrence worth cherishing.

Audience participation has been displayed here at its finest: time and effort correctly spent.

Let’s see if participatory culture can sustain it . . .



1 Comment

  1. I think this example of audience participation is an interesting one because it shows an example of the ways in which the internet can be used for good and for purpose. I also think that it would be interesting to see how this concept could be expanded in the future to incorporate further audience participation. Perhaps it could incorporate things such as adding photos or videos.

    Liked by 1 person

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