“Authorities have long filtered and organized information for us, protecting us from what isn’t worth our time and helping us find what we need to give our beliefs a sturdy foundation. But with the miscellaneous, it’s all available to us, unfiltered,” (pg. 132).

It has become evident that the future of information retrieval is changing at a rapid pace. No longer do scholars have to sift through the endless isles of books and Encyclopedias to find what beetle species with a red shell resides in Costa Rica. Why bother owning a library card when you can have Wi-Fi? That’s what society and David Weinberger have concluded about our new digital universe. It can be found online and organized in a cost efficient and productive way.

So what then is to become of our local libraries, pillars of American society since the 1800s? Weinberger expresses brief concern when he says that, “miscellanizing of information endangers some of our most well-established institutions,” (pg. 134). That’s certainly the belief of Robert McHenry, ex-editor in chief of the Encyclopedia Britannica, when he railed against online informational site Wikipedia. Bottom line, they simply cannot be relied upon. The argument continues comparing the expert librarians and researchers who sift through and organize material that is brought to, say the Library of Congress versus the average joe who thought he/she knew a thing or two about the Spanish Inquisition and thought it would be cool to share it with everyone else. Wikipedia has since become a little wiser and made restrictions, like no longer allowing anonymous users to initiate a new article. However, there is hope with these new digital-pedias. It lies in the contributor. Of course sites like Probert, Infoplease, Wikipedia, and Pakistanpaedia (that’s facts all about Pakistan), still have an obligation to act responsibly online and oversee every entry made. It’s the contributor, though, who now has the knowledge and ability to contribute. “Knowledge-its content and its organization- is becoming a social act,” (pg. 133). It is our ability to have some sort of control in the information we consume that makes the miscellaneous so unique and popular.

 

Ok, so it’s a work in progress, introducing a completely new way of researching digitally. It may remain inexplicable to some for a while. Another question that should be asked though is what happens to the future youth who rely tremendously on what the Internet tells them? Will it become the job of teachers to warn students of the false and incorrect information that lurks online? Could you image a poster hung in classrooms containing the “dos and don’ts” of online research. When I was a kiddo and assigned a research assignment, there were textbooks that provided that information and no one would dare question its authenticity- it was written by a credible scholar in that particular field. My point is, when we introduce a profoundly new method that could replace a traditional method, we must also then prepare for what changes will have to be made to accommodate it.

By. Sarah Crowe

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