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  • New Form of Knowledge

    Posted on September 14th, 2014 hungyin No comments

    Both Weinberger and the authors of Writing History in the Digital Age discuss characteristics of Internet and how these characteristics apply to historical writing. They put much effort on openness of Internet, such as avoiding gatekeepers, increasing diversity and improving collaboration. The most interesting question for me is: as they all indicate Internet changes our way of understanding things into a flexible, nonlinear form, how do I write in this flexible, nonlinear form?

    “…hyperlinked works establish an ecology of temptation, teasing us forward. When the temptation diverge from our aims, we think of those links as distractions. But we could just as well consider the new form of knowledge to consist of content that simultaneously settles an issue for us and baits our further interest.” (Weinberger, 117)

    This new form of knowledge contains hyperlinks of relevant information around the topic. Thus, readers’ interest will be directed into these hyperlinks, not necessary the way that the author decides. Just like Wikipedia, readers today are used to start their learning from one thing, and then choose another relevant topic. They don’t have to follow any order of reading, like book chapters. For example, if I search Mao Zedong on Google and click his Wikipedia page. In the first paragraph, there are 8 hyperlinks and I can click anyone of them. The page provides lots of information about Mao Zedong as a person and the historical events he involved. However, what if I am the author who are going to write a book about Mao Zedong? What if I am an author who cannot predict or control my readers’ behavior as they may want to know different things like clicking on different hyperlinks?

    So I review many famous blogs and Facebook Pages about history, and find there is a common style among these blogs and Pages – most of contents are organized by events and there are just a few posts tried to write comprehensive history. In this way, the authors make their posts into hyperlinks for readers to choose what they want. The authors don’t even try to predict how audiences read the posts, but let the audiences “hyperlink” the posts by themselves. They may post a story of Mao’s family member, another post about his early life, and a post about his leadership. In other words, these authors try to make the readers themselves be the central site to understand Mao through these posts as hyperlinks, and they will not place an order for readers to understand Mao. The story of Mao has been cut into many pieces, but will be collected and re-organized in readers’ mind.

    This may not be the only way of writing a new form of knowledge in digital age, and I do think there are many possible ways to write in digital age. While I am reflecting myself as a blogger now, I think it won’t work well if I just post something online. I am still figuring out my own style to write digitally – as the new form of knowledge.


    14 responses to “New Form of Knowledge” RSS icon

    • I, too, am worried about how to write and retain relevancy in, as you put it, this flexible, nonlinear form. Your point about giving readers options for directing their reading is very interesting, and something I had never thought of. As so many of our readings this week said, maybe the role of historians is now to teach and use critical analysis of sources and research methodology…and, as you point out, to then let digital readers direct their reading.

    • Hungyin,

      Hyperlinks create an interesting dilemma for any writing in a format that includes links to other information. It gives readers more information than they would traditionally have at their fingertips in a traditional, printed medium, but it allows the reader to stray from the original text, your post or article. However, I am not sure a writer’s style needs to change. If historians write a solid, fact based story than that will capture the readers attention and lead them to stay wit the reading, or at the very least go back and forth between the post and the added links. Plus, if our goal is to disseminate knowledge, then we have achieved this goal by educating and informing our readers. Thanks for the post!

    • “They don’t have to follow any order of reading, like book chapters…What if I am an author who cannot predict or control my readers’ behavior as they may want to know different things like clicking on different hyperlinks?”

      Perhaps random, but I feel like frequently, I’ve quit reading chapters in order, just like how I click whatever links I find interesting. Especially while doing research, if a chapter title or intro does not seem to fit what I’m doing, I skip it. Actually, I do this more often than I’d like to admit, unless the book is literally a novel and MUST be read cover-to-cover. Your point makes me wonder how many more people do what my process is, especially among those who have never known a world without Google. Maybe this draws back to why students can’t read a 500pg book or write a monograph? They’re reading hard material like webpage.

    • Great post! I think you bring up great points that I too am interested in.


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    • great !
      thanks for thiz articel, it’s very interesting.

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