The Internet is like a big playground, and it just seems to be getting bigger. More and more people are joining conversations in the Internet and some are wondering if certain people should be allowed to play or not. This openness has allowed people that were previously untrusted with knowledge to gain access to tools, information, and ways of communication to collaborate and voice their ideas. As Weinberger says, this has not eliminated the need for professional scientists but has certainly grayed the area because of the mix of public and the “professionals” (131).
With more contributors, there is of course an abundance of knowledge and information with the Internet. As we have discussed before, there is an inherent problem that comes with the openness. We have to acknowledge that not everything is truthful. We often have to dig through layers or search a long time to find the “best” information. As summed up by Weinberger, knowledge has become a playlist and not a library. We search for something and we get results, similar to looking in a genre for songs.
Not only is there an abundance of information, as networks are created between people and groups of people, authorship is beginning to lose its grip. If more minds collaborate on an idea, everyone may be able to benefit because a better product can be produced. In the past, we have limited the production of ideas to the original people that thought them up, not allowing changes that could make it better until a certain time. Even now, copyright laws have been strengthened to encourage this thinking. We need to allow the public access to these ideas so that collaboration can produce a better idea for the general public.
We need to learn how to play well with others. We need to learn that as a group, we can make good ideas better. Of course, there are downfalls but the public will benefit greatly from this type of openness. There will always be a need for professionals but amateurs have much to offer as well. One thing is for sure, the playground is only going to get bigger.
I can see where both of these techniques are beneficial for researching. Close reading makes me think of dissecting a body of work. You as a scholar want to understand what the author is trying to get across, with every word. I did not know how close you could get to a piece of work until we did our in class exercise. Looking over the sonnet that Shakespeare wrote, Dr. Pandora showed me that you can focus on many different aspects and can even spend months or years on one. For example, she said you can focus on a phrase and analyze it for months at a time. Months for a few words! If this skill is honed, it can be very powerful in research.
Like I said earlier, I think distant reading has value as well. If you do not know what you are looking for, skimming through multiple pieces of literature in an attempt to understand it enough to know if it is useful can be productive. Researchers can waste a lot of time reading material that may or may not pertain to the topic they are working on. Digitally, these skills can be amplified greatly. Using a computer to search for key words or phrases among thousands of documents can be a great tool. Sometimes it may even allow you to discover works that you may have never uncovered. However, this could make the researcher lazy because it can be seen as the computer doing most of the work.
Now, I do think that these two techniques can work together. You may start out distant reading to find relevant material or material that is interesting. Then, you can take a closer work to analyze the piece more closely to understand it. I think this is something that researchers are already engaged in because of the huge amount of material that is in the world. Like Ramsey says, there is no way that anyone could come close to reading everything in the world, which is why it is important to hone these skills.
If I were to choose one of the techniques over the other, I would probably choose close reading. My reasoning is that you actual get to the heart of the material and try to understand what the author was trying to say. I think you learn more when you actually understand the piece of literature more.
“We are witnessing a version of Newton’s Second Law: On the Net, every fact has an equal and opposite reaction. Those reactive facts may be dead wrong. Indeed, when facts truly contradict, at least one of them has to be wrong. But this continuous, multi-sided, linked contradiction of every fact changes the nature and role of facts for our culture” (Too Big to Know by David Weinberger, pg. 40)
This is an interesting point brought up by David Weinberger. It used to be that facts were in print and they were accepted as true because making books took time. Many “experts” looked over the facts and approved them, so we accepted these to be the end of any argument.
With the internet, everyone is able to input their opinion. There is just too much input to be able to “fact check” everything that is put onto the net. So with that comes a problem, we will inevitably get bad input from some sources. People are used to accepting what they read from books as the definite answer, soon we will have to transition to a world of being cautious of the sources we receive our information. We will have to become the filter to insure of the truth of the information, unless we are on a credited website where “experts” are used to proof information.
An interesting side to this is where we are at in our life and our experience with the internet. If we computer literate, then we can input our opinion and perhaps be exposed to wrong facts. Does this mean that those that are not able to traverse the web have a better understanding of what is fact and what is not? Probably not, those that are able to navigate the internet will be exposed to more right facts as well as wrong facts. This points back to the point above that we will need to be able to filter the wrong from the right more on our own.
Now should this be viewed as a bad thing? With so much input, surely those that know the truth will outweigh those that don’t. A consensus will come from the crowd of what is fact and there will be no misleading information. For other ideas that aren’t so concrete, this world of everybody being allowed to submit their input could be a good thing. Through a process of people’s ideas we could come together to create something great, something that isn’t limited to geography or political boundaries or even language. Maybe we can come up with new facts together and share them with others around the world.