Thanks to synchronicity, I have had an interesting relevation. Our shape of information is changing. The very way that information is stored, presented, and absorbed is wholy different than it was a century ago. I realized this reading Peter Straub's Floating Dragon and in listening to an Ubuntu themed podcast. In the former, a handwritten index was brought up, demonstrating what it was truly like to compile information across journals before the internet and easily accessible databases. In the later, it discussed how people who have to rely on books for information are at a disadvantage compared to those who have access to the internet.
We can be in agreement, perhaps, that information is more readily available. I grew up in a small town. A tiny little speck on the Alabama map, with a small library and no good internet power (we had to dial long distance just to get slow dialup). For cheatcodes we would buy magazines, or listen to word of mouth. For recipes, we would swap old family methods. To hear about news, we had the TV and the radio. If I had to look up 17th century poets and do a compare and contrast to their first lines, I would have been unable to do it. Had I been rich enough, then I likely could have ordered something or driven down to a larger city and shopped a bookstore. But no, I was a poor boy in a information deprived area.
The internet is in Evergreen, Alabama now. Moderately high speed and stable. That poetry assignment would be a lot easier, maybe. The reason I say "maybe" is because it seems to me that we are at that all important brink, where ready access to the information and the self-publishing power of the internet threatens to drown meaningful streams under a torrent of information.
Look at my page, for instance. It is a page composed of personal opinion. Yet, it shows up in Google along with pages that are more concerned about fact. Today I was listening to a "podcast" (actually just a badly encoded MP3) of a couple of guys who were on their personal crusade to crack bad jokes and mock religion. Thirty minute clips and I got almost nothing that would be considered "good data".
And then there is Wikipedia, arguably one of the most comprehensive sites of information on the net, and it is plagued by incorrect data and people changing things for the "fun of it" (remember kids, don't touch FUD). IMDB.com has been known to have similar problems.
Incorrect lyrics. Every fool with an opinion gets it out there (I read an article just yesterday about how Batman Returns was a better movie than Batman Begins). People link to poorly researched news articles, as though they themselves were news. And we are not at the zenith of poor taste, no. We are building up. The Myspace generation is sure to bubble over at any minute, just as soon as the new true Geocities comes around.
In all the noise, what do we do? We have tons of information now, but how can we trust it? Well, I guess we are back to where we started. Hand written indexes and friendly word of mouth. Sites we trust, for better or worse. At least we occasionally get to see some guy's naked ex-girlfriend.
Written by W Doug Bolden
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The longer, fuller version of this text can be found on my FAQ: "Can I Use Something I Found on the Site?".
"The hidden is greater than the seen."