Gitelman and New Media

This is an exploration of Gitelman’s comparison between the phonograph and the Internet and how, as “new media,” these two brought into question how we look at concepts like the document or the lecture. I would like to specifically discuss what implications Gitelman’s theory of new media has for 1) accessibility to information and 2) how we establish authority and authorship in new media. I use the concept of Wikipedia specifically to discuss how some of these concepts relate to new digital networks, and how these technologies raise similar questions to those raised by the printing press.


3 thoughts on “Gitelman and New Media

  1. I think the issue with Wikipedia–and other less than stable sources, for that matter–is less a question of reliability than it is an issue of origin. My experience in tutoring “against” Wikipedia has emphasized depth of research. Citing Wikipedia is more an act of laziness than one of inaccuracy. In other words, if you can find it on Wikipedia, you can find the original source of the information. After all, Wikipedia does cite its sources. So rather than quoting a mass-edited paraphrase, you’ll have a source that, at the least, originated the ideas you’re discussing and, even more, phrases the ideas in a way tailored to its specific intended audience.

    You make an excellent point about the accountability of group-produced/group-edited sources, though. With an audience and a writing community spanning the globe, blatantly false information has little room to linger, at least for any period of time. The constant cycle of adding, updating, and reworking in a project like Wikipedia instills expectations and checkpoints very different from those of the print publishing world, even those of peer-edited journals. Kudos to you for addressing that.

    • Yes that’s a good point. I wouldn’t cite Wikipedia in my own work for the very reasons you mention. I wasn’t so much trying to ask whether or not we should be using Wikipedia for scholarly papers as much as I was wondering if our worries about it’s authorship being substandard are similar to earlier worries about the printing press and the anxiety over the mass production and dispersion of ideas. Your points raise a lot of questions about how and why we go about research in the way we do. That may be just what Gitelman is saying new media does; it raises these important questions about how we share ideas.

  2. A little off-topic but regarding the idea of authorship: What do we make of biographical Wikipedia pages managed by the subjects themselves (i.e., me managing and revising the Wikipedia entry about me)? I always get a weird feeling -maybe uncanny is a good word?- when I read a page like this…such a feeling of uncanniness (like maybe the page is -too- familiar with or close to its subject) is always paired with a feeling of suspicion. (I want collaboration and/or peer-review, depending on the text, but I also want those elements to remain hidden.)

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