Google’s working on a new project! An art project!

If you didn’t read about it, Google is putting online ultra high-resolution images of paintings from collections around the world. They plan to launch with a well-sized gallery equivalent to about 17 museums.

When you tire of the British Art Museum, then go online, see so much more.

I enjoy and benefit greatly from free information, and Google is king of king’s when it comes to free information. But this new idea raises an interesting debate, the kind of thing that often happens when engineers stray into realms in which engineering is only one piece of the picture. The basic questions that nag me: is art nothing more than information for Google to suck in and spit back to the masses? Does the digitization and plastering online of our cultures’ finest representations – whether high-def or not – in some way degrade these representations? I recognize the elitism inherent in what I’m saying–puh-lease, another argument against open access. I know that not everyone can up and fly to The Uffizi. But is putting the Uffizi online the best alternative we have?