Thursday, March 25, 2010

S03 - Error

"Error 404 proliferates on the Web becaue the Web is constantly changing; pages are moved or deleted and links go out of date" (Gitelman 132).

I would like to address the question Anna posed in her lecture on Monday, which was how having one's websurfing interrupted is different than having a film's continuity ruined by a misplaced object. I was also interested in Gitelman's discussion of time and the present of the web. Gitelman writes about the fascinating fact that the editors of Thel F, in outlining the preferred citation format for the William Blake archive content, did not include the date of Blake's original printing, nor the date on which the links were established. What they did want included in the citation was the date on which the content was accessed. While MLA-style citation of websites should include the electronic publication date, I often feel that these dates are not as important as the access date. Moreover, since the publication dates are not always available, I remember often hearing my high school teachers tell us that we should at least have the access date. I never really thought much of this; I just assumed that having some kind of date was important. After reading the Gitelman, though, and thinking about access dates and 404 errors, I realize the importance of access date in citing a source that is constantly changing, constantly being updated and rearranged. The webpage you accessed to write your essay on May 12, 2004, may no longer exist in July 2010. The citation is in fact both a record and a warning: it is a record of the page's existence at that moment in time, and a warning that some six years have passed and most of us with a sense of the rate of change of the Web (Gitelman writes that the average life span of a Web page in 2006 is 100 days) won't be surprised if we come up with an Error 404.

I think that this awareness of this constant change actually causes quite a bit of anxiety. I remember working on the starring of a text assignment and thinking constantly about whether the content I was linking to would still be there a couple weeks later. I also checked my links obsessively, making sure that each one worked. I used screenshots and often hosted images on the blog itself rather than hyperlinking because I didn't want to lose them to the passage of time. I knew that someone clicking through my project wouldn't see the same search results on Twitter, YouTube, or Goggle unless I captured it at that exact moment in time. As I worked, I constantly thought ahead to the future.

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