It is hard to pick a side when both the library and Wikisource, in essence, work to accomplish the same noble goals: to disseminate and preserve information. Both have limitations and benefits, as Puneet illustrates in her blog entry. While the library’s primary, potential disadvantages lie in economic (resources/funding) and physical (storage space, preservation of materials) limitations, Wikisource is potentially problematic because it opens up the roles of archival curator and book editor to anyone with an internet connection. Wikisource’s democratization of these functions (editor and curator) do engender the possibility of greater access to information; however, as I mentioned in my earlier post, this democratization does diminish the corpus’s academic legitimacy. As all of us know, it is a big no-no to include any Wiki materials on a works cited list… doing so results in an almost automatic professorial/GA eye roll, followed by the comment, “Look for a more legitimate source!”
Although Wikisource’s academic legitimacy may be shaky, one of the source’s biggest advantages over the traditional library is its status as a hypermedial archive. As Jerome McGann indicates, the incorporation of visual and audial elements in a text “are preferable since literary works are themselves always more or less multimedia forms” (4). The ability to include audial and visual materials in Wikisource editions may, arguably, lead to the publication of more “complete” works—works with the ability to more fully represent the inherently multimedial nature of literature. Furthermore, the ability to include hyperlinks can enrich the reader’s understanding of a text; hyperlinks can help to remove the text from isolation and place it into a broader socio-historical nexus. Wikisource’s benefits (increased access to texts and the publication of multimedial/hyperlinked works) are without a doubt significant; however, the issues that I cannot seem to resolve are: Who is the intended audience for our edition of The Tales of John Oliver Hobbes? Lay public or academia? If our intention is to target an academic audience, will our edition be accepted or discredited by this community? How do open-access information archives, such as Wikisource, fit into institutionalized academia? Should academia embrace or discredit these open-access archives?