In todays Lab, we recapped Monday’s lecture and Hugh implored us to connect more personally with the course and apply its messages and content to our own existence in ‘the network’ and indeed in ‘the world’. So how is information disseminated? By asking myself this will it lead to a fundamental questioning of what I, personally regard as important or relevant or even credible sources of information? I hope so, I feel like shakin’ things up a bit.
So, I ask myself the following set of questions:
What is hypertext beyond it’s definition? How does information spread and evolve?
I think the very nature of ‘research’ has been changed by hypertexts/hyperlinks and I often wonder if this new way of storing and compiling information is inherently changing the way that the human mind logically orders facts and retains information. As a young person, reading an entire (yes ENTIRE) chapter of a book seems almost to be a, do I dare to say it…waste of time when I can simply ‘Google’ it and in seconds be privy to a summary, analysis and condensed account of its contents? I will probably be able to click a link which leads me to other opinions/journals relating to similar content, I can cross reference it’s claims, I can ‘Google’ its author to perhaps gauge where it sits in terms of position or bias. I don’t even need my humble library card, or protein enhanced muscles to lug the multiple books I would have otherwise needed to gain the extensive range of information I needed, all I need is my trusty mac book pro and Google Chrome. Does this make me incapable of actually compiling information on my own? Do I rely on databases that are conveniently crafted for my understanding? Is this necessarily bad? Its quicker, its more convenient and its cheaper for sure. Perhaps by romanticizing the idea of trawling through yellowed books for quotes or ancient opinions is for those who truly enjoy the act, because honestly, I couldn’t imagine how I would have the time, or the patience to do so. I think today, the way we relate to information has been changed by how easily we can access it, and how simple ‘academia’ has become to master. However, this brings up a whole new issue – with such a plethora of easily editable information out there, can we ever really claim an idea? Can we ever really trust a statement to be reliable? Could we ever do this in the first place, surely everything can be queried and always has been open to questioning? Wow, I have really digressed here which I guess is actually an exemplification of how this phenomena of ‘hypertext’ operates. You begin by searching a certain term like ‘dog’ which will inevitably lead you to a webpage about dogs – probably one which has been set up by some ridiculously obsessed person residing in a remote part of Canada. The person who set up this webpage allows Qantas to advertise on their page and you click on a scrolling bar advertising a fare ‘bonanza sale’, you search for your dream destination, but flights there aren’t even that cheap, so you click on an alternative destination – perhaps Bali, its closer and it’s always hot there…you think, but your not sure so you Google ‘Bali Weather’ and click on the first page which is hosted by Wikitravel and discover that flights are so cheap because it’s the wet season, sigh, it sounded nice for a moment. Your eyes are drawn to the top of the page, a blue link reading ‘bali nine’ attracts your attention so you click on it, you have always wanted to know a bit more about it. So you start reading up on the Bali 9, which leads to a good hour of searching the contexts of recent terrorist attacks and extremist groups. Now, to get back to my original point…which was……
I was thinking about something that Hugh said in our lab yesterday right? It was something along the lines of – ‘before the internet it would have taken us days to find out about the attack in Norway’ (what about the telegraph?). Anyway, it made me think about our complete accessibility to events and just how the nature of this accessibility has changed as social networking has evolved. Now, we don’t look to newspapers for our news – I mean, why would we when the internet gives us minute by minute updates on major events as they unfold – the newspaper is already behind the eight ball the moment it is printed. This mornings news is old news. I began to cast my mind back to Cyclone Yasi and, for the first time realized that Australians living outside of the affected areas actually had better coverage than those who were directly experiencing it. The fact is, that without power, many electrical appliances were unable to function – how many times did we hear that the people of far north Queensland were facing “torrential weather, alone and without light”. If they didn’t have light, they definitely didn’t have the TV going with Anna Bligh’s conferences – some may have had a phone linked up to Twitter, well, many did, which allowed us to experience the event in real time, with personal testimony. But what about the news displaying live footage, what about the minute by minute calculations of wind speed and sea levels? I doubt while people were ‘bunkering down’ they were privy to this amount of detail – nor in the follow hours were they as informed as we were to the exact happenings in a wide area. I think this event, more than almost any other in Australia really exemplifies the kind of multi-interface world we are now living in – on the night Yasi hit, you could be watching 24 feeds of the storm on YouTube, read the literal second by second tweets on #Yasi, while following either channel 7, 9, 10 or ABC’s live coverage. I doubt anyone in far North Queensland could.