August 17, 2006
[What we have here is] the dissolution of categories, the collapse of hierarchy, that used to help us navigate information in a way that Google cannot. Time was, we understood that what is written in a scholarly monograph is different from what is written in a reference book, which is different from what is written in an informal essay, which is different from what is written in a news bulletin, which is different from what is offhandedly jotted down, which is different from what is scribbled on the bathroom wall. Different in intent, different in style, different in reliability. And not only did we understand that they were different, we could tell which was what, usually at a glance.
When the world wide web took off, I was finishing high school and starting college. We were told we could not use internet sites for research papers because they were unreliable: any old guy could write any old thing on the web. But now I think we've come full circle; I trust Charles Johnson infinitely more than I trust Dan Rather. News reports are full of lies and fake photos. Academic papers insist that Neil Prakash is a dentist. How can any high schooler or college student wade through this mass of bias and nonsense to write a paper for school? And how can any teacher decide which sources fly these days?
Thank goodness I'm done with school.
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