Tuesday, February 23, 2010

On a positive experience, Wikipedia, and Twitter


I just want to share a very positive experience I just had thanks to new media. In doing research for our paper, I came across a citation on an EBSCO database with an abstract that sounded absolutely perfect for my paper (which is on internet privacy). Unfortunately, the PDF was unavailable for my use.

So I went on with my research, and found more useful journal articles and papers. But I could not get the one that was unavailable out of my mind. I went back to the citation page and found the email addresses of the authors- three professors from the Florida Atlantic University. I thought about what Levinson has reinforced to me in New New Media; that all of this media can be used as a means of intellectual conversation, debate, and learning.

I emailed the authors, and just received an email back with the paper I wanted so dearly.

Anyway, my post is now intended to discuss some other aspects of new media, two of which Levinson wrote about. One is something that I secretly love, and one that I openly hate: Wikipedia and Twitter. I went back today and read the chapters on both, and after learning more about the process in which Wikipedia works, it makes me appreciate it as an open-source even more. I know as students we are always discouraged from using Wikipedia as a citation or source in a scholarly work (which I do agree with). But over winter-session I took an Intro to Philosophy class at Bergen County Community, and had a professor who actually encouraged us to read Wikipedia pages on the philosophers we were studying. That baffled me.

This professor shared some of the points that Levinson discussed. My professor enjoyed Wikipedia as a source because it was open for editing and correction. He promoted the democracy that Levinson discusses, and liked the fact that Wikipedia was not a “gatekeeper” of information. I share these views and I have been using Wikipedia for a number of years. I have not used it to write papers here at FDU, but I have used it to fill my small, random, urges of curiosity. Recently, I really wanted to know the origin of the “sandwich” (yes, the food). Another time I was on the bus and read an article in the New York Times on Charles Manson’s father, and found myself going to Wikipedia on my cell phone to reacquaint myself with the Charles Manson murder case. I have learned a lot from Wikipedia by no means to make me an expert, but to familiarize myself with subjects that are pretty much irrelevant to my life. Useless knowledge, I would say, but knowledge none the less.

Reading about the democratic process that Wikipedia uses to control its content made me understand the true use of Wikipedia even more, and perhaps why that professor at BCC supported it as much as he did. The transparent aspect of Wikipedia makes it so successful, because you can view any change ever made to a page to not only watchdog and control the accuracy of the content, but to show that there is human error involved in new media, whether it is on purpose or accidental. Most credible sources that are on the internet make edits to articles and pages without the ability to track the change. There has been a few times where I read an article on the New York Times website, read the same news on another site such as CNN, saw a mistake in the facts of the article, saw it changed and with no notice to the reader. What happens to that person who never turned back to that article? They cannot track the errors like you can on Wikipedia. These news sources lack the transparency that Wikipedia strives to keep.

As for Twitter- I absolutely hate it. I knew of the use of it for the Iranian protests last year, and I respected it as a form of communication for that, but nothing more. After reading Levinson’s chapter on it, however, I appreciate it more in context to the entirety of new media and its uses. He maps out the way old new media was used, the examples being The White Rose using photocopies to tell the Germans the truth about the Nazis, audio cassettes being distributed in Iran, etc (all listed on page 140 and 141). He placed Twitter on that list for its empowerment it had yet again in Iran.

As a medium, Levinson equates Twitter as a combination of interpersonal and mass communication. It offers one to one, one to many, and many to many. It can be used as an amazing means of communication, like the Iranian protests, but often I find it to be used as an accessory, or “jewelry.” I have yet to try using Twitter, but I do not know how right now it could serve me as a beneficial means of communication. I am not interested in letting people know what I am doing at any given moment, and if I want interpersonal communication with someone I will call them or write an email. In terms of mass communication- I don’t know enough people to tell them a massive message. For news I would rather go to the news paper or their website to get my information, than have Twitter serve as a “wire service” that Levinson says it sometimes serves as for media giants like NYT, CNN, and FOXNEWS that use it.

Levinson definitely gave me some insight onto the functions of Twitter, and comparing McLuhan as a sort of a pre-Twitterer gave me a laugh. But Twitter still fails to get my attention. Does anyone have any suggestions as to why, or any positive experience using the site? I still have this negative conception of it in my head. I overall see it as micro-advertising.

-Jessica Vanacore


  1. I don't know jeccica I am still trying to kept up with texting ,and social networking. I still think , I like use the oldest form of communication. Great post....

  2. I think more and more professors are aceepting and even suggesting Wikipedia as a starting point. The problem is with scholarly citation, as the content is not set, and can be changed frequently, more than it is with its accuracy. Twitter has many uses for networking, keeping in touch, and real time search