Anti-Internet sentiment at Whitman

This is probably a post that is a little more fitting with Twitter, but I couldn’t think of a way in which to fit it into 140 characters.

I’m taking a class right now that is titled “Decolonization in Africa” and is actually quite interesting. Part of the appeal is that the class is geared toward the final project, which is an individual research paper about an African country that we did not cover in class and the decolonization process within that country. Since the class is a mix of History majors and non-majors the professor has made an effort to explain the research process.

While describing the methods of citation that we are to use in our papers (Chicago for those curious) she brought up the question of how we can evaluate online content. Instead of simply advising that we be careful and leave it up to us supposedly tech-savvy kids she presented an argument against web sources and for traditional print sources. The gist of it was that print sources go through peer reviews and are subject to the critique/evaluation of that discipline’s community. Web sources on the other hand (at least seemingly in the professor’s mind) can just be published by anyone and are not subject to the same revisions that academic collaboration theoretically brings.

Overall, it just amazed me that even in the age of tools like Twitter and sites that almost universally have the ability to leave comments (heck, even the NY Times allows you to comment on most articles) someone could still believe that the web is just overflowing with content that is not subject to the opinions of the community. In my mind an article published online is going to stimulate just as much, if not more, peer review and critique than one published in print. If there’s an error in a print article then you must have the succeeding journal/paper/book edition/etc. to realize it. If an article errors in the digital medium you usually just have to scroll to the bottom of the page to see the problems with it. The most you might have to do is a search for other articles that mention the one you are reading. I just feel the impulsive need to “enlighten” older generations to the collaborative power of the web, if only they would trust in the online community. If only…