Remembering & forgetting: the dual problems of web 2.0

One of the things I teach my students is to be aware of the internet’s ability to remember. I show them images of myself that can be found using Google image search from over ten years ago. The pictures are from a website I made in 2000 for a chemistry class. The server on which the site existed no longer exists, the website url leads to a dead end, yet because of the archive-nature of the internet, the images remain. This is a powerful lesson for students who ought consider their digital footprint carefully.

However, there is another problem with the internet and remembering – it too easily forgets. In traditional scholarly journals, a published article is cited and is always available from that source. True, locating the source may be difficult, but it is there. When I “cite” a source on the internet, the source might disappear or have been modified since I cited it. I know, this is why we put downloaded dates on references, but few readers actually check the date and cross reference to the website’s last updated date (if the website even has such a date). So while there is great value in the web and the flow of information, the hyper-fluidity of the information may cause problems and (I predict) prevent the “cult of the amateur” (as Andrew Keen calls it) from replacing traditional knowledge publication.

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One Response to Remembering & forgetting: the dual problems of web 2.0

  1. Jerrid kruse says:

    Here is a NY times article about his topic written a month & a half after this post :). I love being in front of mainstream media.


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