Cites & Bytes @ Bailey

a library newsletter, a compendium of interesting tidbits, a communication tool....from Bailey Library @ Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania. (Site Feed)

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Wisdom of the Crowd*...

Today, class, we will be discussing the viral aspect of information on the internet. Several weeks ago, I was looking up something or other that I no longer recall, some small thing I was curious about. I found a link to an article written by some "expert"... I didn't check their credentials, but the site seemed legit. Then I looked at the wikipedia article for this obscure topic, which incorporated the article completely. Then I looked at other search results, most of them blogs that all included the information from the original article (made viral by wikipedia's use, I guess) word for word. And I thought to myself... this is so circular and there is no dissenting opinion, no fresh perspective, no new facts, these people are just lazy (not to mention plagiarists.) Perhaps I was the lazy one not to search out some more traditional resources instead of the internet echo chamber. My point, however, is that truth is being created by repetition and accepted through common agreement or sloppy scholarship, regardless of the facts. You have only to look at the Urban Legends site to see how much foolishness is commonly believed to be true by the masses. Is this okay? No.

Here are some serendipitous articles that wax more eloquently on the subject, shared by Library Director Phil Tramdack, Librarian Lynn Hoffmann and others. While you are reading them, I will be off finding those weapons of mass destruction. Hope the trip doesn't cost me too many of those dollars without the "In God We Trust" motto.
P.S. I AM encouraged by the recent trend toward fact-checking political debates, sports claims, etc. It's almost like we have a group of people whose job it is to be objective and investigate the facts...

P.P.S. *We have that book, actually... as an e-book, The Wisdom of Crowds by James Surowiecki.


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