I was always the kind of kid who loved projects. Three dimensional objects, posters and models that accompanied a traditional report made my academic heart sing. Reports were almost always just one or two pages in length. Our preferred method of research in the 1970’s consisted of The World Book Encyclopedia. Every child wished for a complete set of these books as ownership was the pinnacle of academic success for each home. Imagine my surprise to find that for just $699 I could order the 2013 set of books for my middle school child! Which choice should I could make? Invest the money in a laptop, which leads to unlimited knowledge with the click of a link, or purchase a set of books with limited connections? Hum…hum…what is a concerned parent to do?
If I purchase the books, I will follow a time honored tradition of placing this colorful set at my son’s disposal. A set of encyclopedias from 1974 occupy a shelf in the home of a family friend. On several occasions my son has been welcome to use them for homework. They were good enough for those of my generation, but are now far from adequate for those of my son’s generation. I decline the offer without offense. I ponder how to explain that the concept of knowledge, as proposed by David Weinberger, does not reside in the paper medium.
Traditional research has consisted of endless hours of study using traditional peer reviewed journals and books. The idea that when a theory was reiterated in numerous publications by many well-known scholars that the idea must indeed be a truth worthy of use in my research. These endless loops of sameness made it challenging for me to determine how and when to interject theories that looked different from what I had read. Each scholar’s work reverberated producing a chamber that initially fit the pattern of research taught. If I read widely on one topic, I would begin to wonder if each of the scholars organized a retreat prior to publication. I imagine that the sole purpose of meeting would be to agree upon a similar way in which to state the same ideas over and over.
One of the most exciting and intellectually liberating aspects of reading on-line is the power of the hyperlink! Traditional punctuation directs my reading and thinking. I know when to begin, where to pause and when an idea concludes or changes. Weinberger contends that links are the opposite of stopping points. They invite me to continue the idea, to explore more fully or to consider how a network of ideas could be in contention with one another.
In the “World According to Wallace”, the idea of connectedness is explored first mathematically and then relationally. If an algorithm can explain how individuals could be linked in six steps, then perhaps these networks of people could lead to networks of ideas. While ideas may at times be in contention, as is explored through one blogger’s dissonance with technology, it can also be a bond that fuses nodes together! Hyperlinks lend authenticity to both my writing and that of my peers. An individual point-of-view, how a classmates evaluates information from readings and what he cares about is evidenced through writing. Blog reflections and hyperlinks support the ideas of the writer and arouse the curiosity of the reader. The time that I engage in reading blogs provides a echo chamber of sorts through which ideas reverberate. While reading blogs, I question how the writer’s ideas fit both the readings and research with my own ideas. Each time I hyperlink to a new resource, I recognize that in order to understand the unfamiliar, I must first absorb it into the familiar.