Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Warning: Reading this Post may be Hazardous to your Discourse.

Gitelman's survey of web textuality covers a wide range of effects that can occur to texts embodied in digital form — especially on the web. She writes:

And since metadata are precisely "meta-," their revision process reflects an author's, editor's, or programmer's ongoing reinterpretation of the data in question. [...] And once the machine is running, it becomes all but impossible to experience Web publication as a bounded event within a punctual discourse.

I'd like to demonstrate this point. You might think that the words you posted here are your own, safe from editing and revision on the part of others. But your words are not safe. This is not a gated community. There may be bad apples in the bunch. At any moment, say, a small army of Lolcats could run over your carefully crafted prose... (Thanks for the inspiration, Schuyler.)

1 comment:

matbecker said...

I think this is probably the most important point. Nothing on the internet is sacred and nothing can be saved from destruction. Wikipedia articles are always changing and the average user will never know what it had said a year before. For example, Stephen Colbert once asked his fans to change the remaining population of elephants on the Elephant wikipedia page. If one were to go to the Elephant page, there would be no record of this ever happening to the public.

And even if an archive functioned perfectly on the Internet, it is still data held in computer chips and wires. If something catastrophic were to happen to our world (say a cosmic impact or nuclear holocaust), there would be no way to access the information that was once held on these databases.

But really, I'm just saying what has already been said by others. Ultimately, I want the theorists to come up with of means of fixing our current system rather than just saying the system if flawed. It would be refreshing to hear some options come out of all the criticism.