“For a brief time, he was thought to have been directly involved in the Kennedy assassinations of both John, and his brother, Bobby. Nothing was ever proven."Outraged at this and other false claims, Seigenthaler penned an op-ed for USA Today, blasting the unverified and anonymous posting practices of Wikipedia (and by extension, the Internet in general):
And so we live in a universe of new media with phenomenal opportunities for worldwide communications and research — but populated by volunteer vandals with poison-pen intellects.The NY Times’ Kat Seelye seems to want to push the shopworn MSM meme:
Still, the question of Wikipedia, as of so much of what you find online, is: Can you trust it?Despite herself, she stumbles into a number of good quotes from people who understand the dynamic of the new media:
Indeed, Esther Dyson, editor of Release 1.0 and a longtime Internet analyst, said Wikipedia may, in that sense, be better than real life. "The Internet has done a lot more for truth by making things easier to discuss," she said. "Transparency and sunlight are better than a single point of view that can't be questioned."
Now, I have never been a huge fan of Wikipedia, and I think its MSM-style claims to neutrality and authoritativeness have in some ways brought this trouble onto itself. However, I think this story is indicative of a deeper point that underlies the MSM-blog wars. To put it bluntly, most people have been trained to seek answers from authoritative sources, thus bypassing the need to actually, you know, think. Septuagenarian Seigenthaler probably thought he was trafficking in those answers when he edited The Tennessean, and you can see similar cognitive styles from any number of MSM-based defenders of CBS (cf Marvin Kalb’s recent interview with Dan Rather at Harvard).
Many of us here may already take for granted the paradigm shift of open source and massively distributed information, as it is ego-syntonic (ie, agreeable to our cognitive style). However, it is equally incumbent upon us to address some of the social problems that arise in the transition from a top-down, gatekeeper-based knowledge economy to a distributed knowledge economy. Some of the issues are discussed on the Wikipedia discussion page concerning the Seigenthaler controversy. (See also here and here for some axe-grinding that is specific to Wikipedia).
A larger issue that has been affecting me (and perhaps many of us here?) directly regards time management in the face of information overload. How do you know when a piece of information has been sufficiently vetted and contextualized? How do we build, and gauge, social trust on the internet? How can I stop myself from clicking just one more link to find out more?
Even more broadly: How is our democracy affected by vast (and growing) disparities in knowledge (and ways of knowing) between citizens?