Reading the Social

I think that Miso has tapped into something significant with her blog post. She poses a number of questions that are intertwined with their concerns about the future of expertise, scholarship, and credit when faced with a community of wiki writers who adhere to a neutral point of view. Upon reflecting on the NPOV policy she states that the “editor is no longer an acknowledged individual (with biases, opinions, and motives)”. On one hand I completely agree with her, yet paradoxically, I find the opposite to also be true.

On the one hand we have the perception that Wikisource is, indeed a source. Pure words from the author alleviated from the seemingly unfortunate constraints of its dusty body. In this form it is a rationalized text that comes to us raw, pure, and supposedly stripped of artifice. In such a case, the editors that brought it to this state are suppose to stay absent. The text stands, purified by its digital bath.

But this is only half of the equation. On the top bar of Wikisource there are two buttons positioned beside one another. One button named “Page” which denotes the authority of text that we are familiar with. But beside it is an equally weighted button named “Discussion”. In this arrangement we can see a new relationship being forged. The implication is that by their design, wikis are asking us to reconsider how it might be useful to understand a text by ways of reading collaboration. Not only should we read the text, we should also read and evaluate how it was produced and what issues arose in its production as a digital object. Such a reading does not do away with opinion and bias but actually makes them central activities. The individuals become readily apparent by the light of their passionate diatribes and rebuttals. Their alignment allies made through effective rhetoric and convincing appeals. This is nothing like NPOV.

Viewed from this position, the act of reading will not only require of us to identify literary themes but also ask us to evaluate the quality of the debate that a text generates. Its value then as a cultural object will be a function of the dedication of its editors. Put in terms of a thesis, a good book should produce a good debate. I look forward to proving this true with our social edition.

This entry was posted in Week 2: Initial reflection on the Social Edition and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Reading the Social

  1. cleda.choi says:

    I appreciate Steven’s argument and agree with it, to an extent; however, my main concern is about how the relative anonymity of Wikisource may negatively impact the quality of the edition. When there is no identifiable, professional editor attached to an edition, I think there is an automatic questioning of its veracity and credibility. I also completely agree with Steven that the texts on Wikisource are influenced by the individual (apparent through both the edits and the discussion page). My main bone of contention was with Wikisource’s claim of editorial neutrality. It seems misleading to position the site and its community as neutral. Thanks for the mention! Also, please ignore my log-in name… Call me Miso!

  2. steven.jankowski says:

    edit: Cleda replaced with Miso 🙂

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