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I'm having difficulty thinking of things to say for the first half of my essay. The title is How does the World Wide Web affect and inform public perceptions of the past, and how reliable an educational tool is it?. I've got more than enough to write on the reliability of the internet, I'm just stuck on things to write about how it affects/informs public perceptions of the past :\ (I've written about people will just browse the Time Team website which might inspire them to learn more and how it's useful for people looking for information from books no longer published anddd... that's about it).
So any help or ideas anyone can think of will be more than welcome! (Btw, this essay is due in on the 24th I believe, next week sometime anyways).
I've not really got the time to write a big thing, but here's a quote that springs to mind on that subject from Gibson:

[Chevette has been knocked unconscious and hallucinating/dreaming]

She was back in Skinner's room, reading National Geographic, about how Canada split itself into five countries. Drinking cold milk out of the carton and eating saltines. Skinner in bed with the tv, watching one of those shows he liked about history. He was talking about how all his life these movies of history had been getting better and better looking. How they'd started out jumpy and black and white, with the soldiers running around like they had ants in their pants, and this terrible grain to them, and the sky all full of scratches. How gradually they'd slowed down to how people really moved, and then they'd been colorized, the grain getting finer and finer, and even the scratches went away. And it was bullshit, he said, because every other bit of it was an approximation, somebody's idea of how it might have looked, the result of a particular decision, a particular button being pushed. But it was still a hit, he said, like the first time you heard Billie Holiday without all that crackle and tin.

Billie Holiday was probably a guy like Elvis, Chevette thought, with spangles on his suit, but like when he was younger and not all fat.

Skinner had this thing he got on about history. How it was turning into plastic. But she liked to show him she was listening when he told her something, because otherwise he could go for days without saying anything. So she looked up now, from her magazine and the picture of girls waving blue and white flags in the Republic of Quebec, and it was her mother sitting there, on the edge of Skinner's bed, looking beautiful and sad and kind of tired, the way she could look after she got off work and still had all her make-up on.

'He's right,' Chevette's mother said.

'I 'com?'

'About history, how they change it.'

'Mom, you?'

'Everybody does that anyway, honey. Isn't any new thing. Just the movies have caught up with memory, is all.'

Gibson, William, Virtual Light (London: Penguin Books, 1994), p. 242.

Here technology is altering perceptions of the past but also constructing new aspects of it that weren't recorded at the time, a bit like recontructive archaeology filling in the gaps of knowledge with guess work.
Well if you go back to what the origin of what the World Wide Web is meant to be, then you'd be looking a space where people and machines are meant to interact in a global network of purely accessible information. So, to be able to define it's current use to obscure or enlighten the past is a challenge indeed.
When looking at the social aspects of the WWW you'll find that one of the key components to the Webs architecture is that information should be free flowing. This means that everyone from top notch scholars and Universities can publish about a subject, but also that a smaller group should also be able to exhibit their possibly less accepted perspective.
The problem with definening the WWW as being a factual space for learning, is the Human component. Since the WWW was created for the purpose of communication, it only allows you to view what other people have placed there. On this basis, the factuality of a document is up to the perception of the reader.
The interesting thing about the WWW purpose when it comes to history is that history is already pre-defined by people. So if the people don't have their facts right in the first place, then they can't be right on the Internet. If your willing to view sourcing books at your library as a good educational tool, then so should the Internet, because both carry the same faultiness. (I'll get back to resource tool similarities later.)
As schools start to integrate the use of computers in education, its use as a strong research engine will increase. It will also teach the students how to effectively view and discern what they find on the net. This will help to eliminate the accepting of all sources they come across, but increase their ability to understand and sift through information for responsible sourcing.
In my opinion it affects the majority of societies perspective the same way books or newspapers do. The only really difference being the accessibility, and the identifiers increasing the speed of research. Logically this means the perception of the past should become more factual due the ease of source checking, but again this depends on the person viewing it. There will always be people who take anything they read or see as "the word of god", and for these people the WWW could infact be detrimental to their view of history.
This is of course a current view of the WWW interactivity. The future is much harder to presume. Either the flow of information will become more wide spread, increasing the historical possibilities of the web. Or Governments/agencies will restrict what is circulated on the Web, and in essence control anything that is published.
And haven't even touched on my conspiracy theories yet laugh.gif
Oob raises a good point there: there is a distinction between the internet and the WWW. It might be worthwhile seeing if our uni library has a copy of Where Wizards Stay Up Late: The Origins Of The Internet by Katie Hafner; I'm sure it will have some stuff about the early WWW which should be useful for quotes.

The WWW really became successful because of the possibility to include images, something that was not really possible with the architecture of the internet previous to that. If it's any indication of the state of things, the internet was an academic resource, used by intellectuals, initially set up to provide a network of computers that could survive a nuclear strike. The WWW became popular because you could put up porn and pictures from Star Trek. As with pretty much any tool in history, it wil only really be successful if it can be applied to sexual gratification or make users more likely to get sex; other benefits a tool may convey are just layers of meaning. From this perspective it's probably fair to say that the internet is a limited resource for educational purposes.

From a purely academic perspective, there is not currently an agreed on system for referencing internet sources. In my PhD I use a system where I note the author of a page, if it's available, the name of the page, if it has one, the URL of the page, the date the content on the page says it was written, and the last time that I checked the URL works. Unlike books, internet pages frequently don't have all of this information and are prone to disappearing overnight. Some of the early references in my thesis don't exist any more. This is a serious problem for academics: we need stable, verfiable sources to cross-reference other people's research. Without consistency of source materials we cannot demonstrate the veracity of out work to others, which is why I include the access date so that if questioned I can give a point in time where the material existed at the URL I state. From a purely academic perspective this may be the most challenging aspect of using the internet as a resource: not being able to check a reference is perhaps a greater threat to academia than the resource itself possible not being trustworthy.
Another thought occured to me last night when I was think about this. And I think it explains a bit more of what I'm trying to say then my last scatter brained post.
To summarize what I was trying to say about the recording of history, I'm going to use the example of Buddists in Tibet during the Chinese rule, or rather Chinese control.
Numerous atrocities were comitted during this time to the buddists. The complete scope of this isn't known to the general public. But in more recient years there has been some publication of what happened in tibet. This isn't to say that it doesn't exsist. The buddists created a book (well several) all called the Lotus book which was created by the buddist to be passed with in the community and have deaths and attoricties add to the pages.
I use this example for three reasons.
The first: Humans have become more and more adept at recording events. We've had what 10000 years at it. So from my point of the view, the WWW is simply the next step. From carvings on walls, to numerous paper publications, to WWW which makes information more availible then ever before, in any language you want. WWW is sort of like the new evolution of recording tools.

Second:The Lotus book shows how recording true history of an event is a need for people. So what does this have to do with the WWW? Well a single country might want to control its version of how events took place, this is absolutly improbable with the WWW. Its hard to conceal facts when they are so easlly published.

Third: Try looking up Lotus Book in you search engine and see what you find. I can almost garnitee the first real refrence to the real lotus book your going to get is back in page 10 or 11 of your search. It is true that unfortunatly the WWW has become a major commericial tool, this impeeds the learning process. Unless you decide to by one of those various book that have the word Lotus in the title and learn a little something about what Buddism is from a western authors view.

After reading this, it seems just as scatter brained..... Oh well
People may have a desire to record things, but do they do so accurately? There is no such thing as 'unbiased history'. The basic history of an event can usually be discovered through interviews, but nothing that you are told should be treated as facts.

Don't forget that, while the WWW has created a level plane on which all people can publish, some people are just better writers. This can be reasons of dispassionate viewing abilities, it can be for reasons of academic research giving weight to their views, or it can be that they possess great writing abilities. Before the WWW the difficulties of physical publishing acted as a primary filter to prevent much of the lower grade material from finding its way into the public domain, but now we have masses of information with a thin spread of good writing drowning somewhere in it.
Thankyou guys so much! You have given me some invaluable stuff to put in there!
*gives cookies to both* Thankyouuu!
No problem. It keeps the brain ticking over to think about something other than my own work once in a while!
Right, I'm making a stab at finishing it now. I'm gonna sit here for as long as it takes until it's finished.
Thankyou so much for all your help, guys laugh.gif
Would anyone actually be interested in me posting it when it's finished? It's probably not going to be very good :\

I think I'm going to take a break now x__X I've got most of what I need on there. I just need to think up some more stuff about how it affects public perceptions (so it at least seems to be about as much as the reliability; the things I've written on reliabilty is quite long) then draw it all together, tidy it up and there you go laugh.gif

It's due in on Friday, so if anyone has anything else they would like to add before then it's very welcome!
Ahh, I think I've finally finished! And I think it's one of the longest essays I've ever written x__X It's at over 2300 words, but seeing as I couldn't find anything with a set word limit anywhere, I should be alright tongue.gif
I'll let you two know what mark I get for it shall I? Hehe.

Again, if anyone still has any ideas on the affecting and informing perceptions of the past bit, please say! It's never too late! (except untill tommorow evening, lmao).
If you want to think about how the web changes perceptions of events then have a look at the July the 7th bombings in London this year. Despite the fact that it was clearly nowhere near the scale of the Sept 11th attacks on the WTC there were quickly 'remember 7/7' logos being posted all over the place on websites. Many people in the US were surprised by the British response of irritation, acceptance, and indifference. I think that for many people online it became a point where the two nations divided by a common language really showed the deep cultural differences.

Perhaps an easier way of talking about such things is the advent of 24 hour news coverage requiring a constant supply of news. In lieu of real events things become blown out of proportion to fill the time and space before an actual major event occurs. In the same mode, all events are covered as if they are about to be the most momentous thing to happen that decade it the possibility that the event will truly turn out to be significant and the report being picked up globally. Reporters are aware of the possibility that they are on the brink of an historic event, and so they play to a constantly attentive audience. In this way, minor events are treated as significant. For the same reason, governments can adjust they way that they release information so that they receive as little coverage of undesirable results as possible, timing publication of unflattering reports to closely coincide with predicatble events so that it receives as little coverage as possible.

The manipulation of the news has become an artform because of the constant hunger for news created by the internet. This minimises the amount of time that would previously have been spent on editorial decisions and instead dilutes coverage with filler stories. Reporters have to make everything sound like history-in-the-making, resulting in viewers who no longer have easy triggers to inform them of an event's status. Editors of television news would place important events first, but now with rolling news this becomes replaced by quarter-hourly markers, degrading the viewer's sense of priorities, and internet coverage priviledges the firstly the most recent report, not always the most important. Without the time that editors previously had to arrange the news for consumption viewers are instead left with undigested information, all of which becomes meaningless when taken with their daily lives.

We may be living in the period of time that is covered by more reporting than any before it, but discerning important coverage is increasingly difficult in the soup of media. Events are indicated by their dates, but search engines blend decades of news together, removing acts from their historical perspective. This may enliven a viewer that wishes to be challenged, by permitting them to create their own understanding of historical patterns and situations, but more likely it leads to a situation where too much information results in at best a garbled view of events and at worst no concept of narrative between situations.

This is also probably why conspiracy sites are so popular on the web: suddenly a huge amount of raw data is available for people to shape into immensely unlikely forms... But that's going off on even more of a tangent than I usually do!
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