Matt Brittin, UK managing director for Google visited the BBC's offices at MediaCity UK in Salford yesterday. Sophie Williamson from the University of Salford reports.
To coincide with the opening of their new MediaCityUK campus, the University of Salford invited MD of Google UK, Matt Brittin, to give a talk to students and academics at the BBC’s Quay House. Vice Chancellor, Martin Hall introduced Brittin’s visit as the first of what he hoped to be many more collaborative events between the University and the BBC; emphasising the significance of such a strategic partnership for all involved.
Brittin framed his talk around two keys words, 'fast' and 'happy'. He briefly outlined Google’s short history and pointed out their objective has always been to save time. Their search aims to be as fast and accurate as possible, to ultimately get satisfied users off their page quickly.
He went on to outline features such as improvements to their Translate facility and copyright infringement updates for YouTube. He reeled off impressive figures about the uptake of Google on mobile devices and detailed potential new markets available to businesses through this uptake. Brittin finished his talk showcasing the ‘Insights’ feature and emphasised the value of real time insights to help understand search patterns.
The most interesting part of the session came in the Q&A’s; the audience clearly wanted to know Brittin’s thoughts on the public service responsibilities of Google. Should they be putting content that was ‘socially good’ higher up the rankings? Brittin didn’t really have a clear answer for this, but confirmed they did not wish to become an omnipowerful entity like many had claimed.
An intriguing question came from the Vice Chancellor himself, who asked, if Brittin was VC, what would he do? Brittin came up with some very interesting points emphasising an openness of content; allowing the public to interact with University owned material - this in particular, has extremely poignant implications for Research. He praised the MediaCity campus for its diversity of courses across disciplines and championed this practice in order to produce artistic graduates with complimentary computer science skills. I found this point particularly encouraging; coming from the School of Art and Design, where this cross-over of disciplines is something we prioritise within our courses, it was really nice to know Brittin felt the same.
He concluded by prompting educators to think of the long term role of technology in the future and the challenges they may encounter from this.
All in all, it was a great way to kick off the Universities move to MediaCity, and certainly encouraging to know that big businesses like Google know where Salford is, but more importantly, want to be a part of it.
Sophie Williamson is a collaborative programme administrator for the University of Salford's School of Art & Design