The Changing Spaces of Reading and Writing

Face-off: OED and Wikipedia

I am not nearly as brave as Drew, although we used the same springboard. He posted a wonderful multimedia interpretation. I’m afraid I’d be too incoherent. Six classes, three meetings, and twelve hours later, I will be grateful if I can form thoughts and type them. But here it goes…

The OED and Wikipedia connection and comparison offered in Module 1 is interesting. In my position teaching college students research skills, I am often called into classroom to destroy the authority of Wikipedia. Instead, I highlight its wonders and woes as I would with any resource.

Consulting Wikipedia for text was enlightening. There are eight entries. The longest by far is for the recent text messaging. The eight entries have multiple sub-headings and present very detailed accounts of text messaging’s social impact and worldwide use. Other entries of note are for the Swedish band, Text, and text as it applies to computing, “ordinary, unformatted, sequential file.” I started to ruminate on the entry for text as it relates to computing, (and might add another post) but decided to stay on course for the course.

Text (literary theory) needs to be “wikified¬† to meet Wikipedia’s quality standards.Please help by adding relevant internal links, or by improving the article’s layout”. The other entry similar to OED, referring to the Bible/scripture, has no link to further information.

I’m reminded of Ammon Shea, author of Reading the OED: One man, one year, 21 730 pages, who described the OED as “a catalog of the foibles of the human condition”. It’s a reflection of its time, an historical perspective. The OED attempts to align with current communication and incorporate new word styles once they graduate from fads (CBC has wonderful, short segments lamenting additions from Homer’s “Doh!” to cyberphobic) but cannot keep pace with the ferocity with which Wikipedia grows.

The OED’s James Murray relied on Dr. William Chester Minor for close to ten thousand submissions while Wikipedia relies on millions from the masses. Dr. Minor was a murderer, clinically insane, and committed to an asylum. (The Professor and the mad man: A tale of murder, mystery, and the making of the Oxford English Dictionary details their extraordinary relationship as well as the building of the OED.)

I don’t mean to be delivering book reports, but the above helped me situate the two terms we’ve been deliberating – text and technology. I return to Drew’s post where he highlighted their interconnectedness. I do not argue against his thoughtful conclusions, but offer a twist. The emergence of technology forced a growth or manipulation of the understanding of text. As technology took hold, the other had to adapt or was adapted. I appreciated the images of weaving in the reading and on this blog, but am wondering if, in this case, there’s more of a push-pull; if technology isn’t subsuming text? And if so, what does this forecast?

I must truly be tired… as Derrida springs to mind. The relationship between the signifier and the signified shifts. There is nothing concrete and the signified varies in context – culture, time, etc. As I’ve just dumb-downed Derrida, I should stop. Actually, I should most likely wait until text‘s entry is wikified or be proactive and perform the ‘wikifying’ to create my own wikiality. (I’ve been trying to link to Stephen Colbert’s clip for half an hour, but am left hanging each time and now the icons are greyed out.)


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