Papyrus Scrolls, Hieroglyphs and Twitter (Chapter 3)

Posted on July 7, 2011

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Computer programmers and web designers used to have all the fun.  Unless you understood programming code, you weren’t likely to publish any of your own material on the internet.  A few hours and a copy of HTML for Dummies might have brought novices like me a little closer, but ripping off other people’s MySpace designs was as close as I came to “publishing” online.  And then the world changed.

According to Safko, the progression was started long before the World Wide Web.  In fact, Safko traces social networking back to cave drawings, papyrus scrolls (think Dead Sea scrolls) and hieroglyphs.  The most recent changes, however, are the ones that have catapulted our abilities as individual authors.  The laser printer essentially allows us to publish our own books.  Blogging and microblogging allow us to publish material instantly to the internet.  No code necessary.

The online magazine, Zimbio, is an interesting take on the new way of publishing.  Their site is interactive.  They have professional sources and readers writing for them.  I wonder how often articles are written without proper fact-checking?  I tried to find the official policy for the Zimbio website, but couldn’t decide if there was ANYONE fact-checking the material submitted by subscribers.

I’m a huge fan of new media’s blogging and microblogging.  I’m a fan , but I’m also a skeptic.  If we are all potential authors and publishers, how will we know who to trust?  In perhaps the most notable guffaw relating to blogging, USDA official Shirley Sherrod was fired after a blogger posted a short video clip of her speaking.  The 38-second clip showed Sherrod saying that she did not fully extend help to a white farmer.  Sherrod was fired and condemned by the NAACP.  Sherrod countered that the clip was taken out of context, and review of the entire speech showed Sherrod using this story to condemn racism and encourage people to look beyond race.  (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/07/20/shirley-sherrod-resigns-usda-naacp_n_652185.html)

How do we prevent this from happening?  Frankly, I don’t think prevention is possible.  People already have the power to write and publish whatever they want–true, untrue, kind, hurtful.  We are long past prevention.  Instead, we need to learn and teach others how to be good consumers of the information overload.  You can’t believe everything you read online.  You need to learn who to trust and who is reliable.  The White House officials that fired Sherrod learned a big lesson the hard way…you need to do your own research and fact-checking.  Impulsive overacting stems from laziness.  It was their job to, at the very least, find and watch the entire speech that the original clip was pulled from.  We can’t be passive consumers any longer.  We need to get involved in order to ensure we are getting it straight.

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