08 September 2010

Revolution of Authority

Just like the printing revolution in Europe in the 1500s, our current digital revolution raises the issues of trust and authority. Clay Shirky said of the print revolution:

Copies of Aristotle and Galen circulated widely, but direct encounter with the relevant texts revealed that the two sources clashed, tarnishing faith in the Ancients. As novelty spread, old institutions seemed exhausted while new ones seemed untrustworthy; as a result, people almost literally didn't know what to think. If you can't trust Aristotle, who can you trust?

Our situation today is not exactly the same, but we can draw parallels. Though we may still trust the Deseret News as a reliable information source, we may still be inclined toward online sources such as a fountain of immediate answers. Once we've entered the digital realm, the search for authenticity is much more complex and difficult. Since anyone can publish anything online, that which is posted may be absolutely false.

Paul Levinson discussed this problem in relation to his own research for New New Media. In this digital revolution, authority is democratized. Levinson did not consult scholarly articles from peer reviewed journals as he wrote his book because they do not exist. With the rate of change in the digital world, he wrote on his own authority as an experienced user of "new new media." No longer must an individual be a trained, experienced journalist to report on a significant event--he or she can simply tweet the news. Isn't that sort of journalism much faster and more accurate, anyway? To quote Ariana Huffington, "The future of quality journalism is not dependent on the future of newspapers." Huffington is the founder of The Huffington Post, a blog "featuring various news sources and columnists . . . [including] coverage of politics, media, business, entertainment, living, style, the green movement, world news, and comedy." The Huffington Post and similar blogs may well be the future of journalism. The dominance of trained, experienced, newspaper journalists is in decline.


So what does this democratization of authority, this digital revolution in publishing, have to do with my research? I've thought a lot about Norbu not wanting me to trust his word only during our skype conversation. Who am I to trust as an authority figure in classroom media in India? What scholarly sources can I consult? I doubt the scholarly sources will extend far beyond Levinson's book itself. Perhaps I, too, will come to the conclusion that my authority and experience with new media are the crucial, if not only, sources of information.

2 comments:

  1. GREAT INSIGHT KRISTEN!!!
    I enjoyed reading this a lot!
    In these times, anybody can post on the internet! Whether it be fact or opinion. That adds a whole new face to "literacy". We have to be able to determine which source is solid, and which is just another person's opinion.
    However, I think that opinions and thoughts of others can spark inspiration and new ideas. So as the pool of information expands, experiments will be written and theories proven! Just build up off of each other!

    Love reading your posts! Awesome job!

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  2. Wow, thanks Jeffrey! You're kind!

    I think you have a really great point about digital literacy including source evaluation--we need to recognize that because anyone can edit a wikipedia article, it is easy for such an article to contain incorrect or incomplete information.

    I agree that the pool of information available on the internet is good. How else can ideas battle it out and eventually win?

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