The Changing Spaces of Reading and Writing

Revolutionizing information organization and academic authority

Commentary #2 – In response to Michael Wesch’s video, “Information R/evolution” (Module 4)

Appropriately “hyper” for the purposes of framing hypertext and the changing technologies of writing and archiving information, Micheal Wesch’s Information R/evolution is a dynamic interplay of text technologies that incorporates both the hypertext discussion of Jay David Bolter and the organization discussion of Walter Ong. Wesch speaks to the evolution of the pre-typographic notion that information is “a thing… housed in a logical place… where it can be found” and how we have now moved towards a place where technology affords the ability for anyone to create, critique, organize and understand. Information R/evolution touches upon two interesting developments supported by the hypertext environment of our technological world: the nature by which information is stored and the nature of authority.

Information R/evolution starts out with images of the typewriter, standard filing cabinet and card catalogue. This is intentional as each of these three objects were, for many years, definitive symbols of the way by which information was recorded, stored and retrieved. In unpacking the information evolution, these images quickly transform into those of word processing programs, blogs and search engines. Wesch suggests that it does not take an expert to attend to organizational tasks; rather, we are all responsible for the tagging, bookmarking, categorizing and otherwise organizing of information. The organizational affordances of technology are illustrated in the video and echo Walter Ong’s discussion about categories and lists and how they create meaning out of space, impressing through “tidiness and inevitability” (Ong, 2002, p.120). Wesch illustrates this revolution as a true transcendence of place with regards to the means by which information can be rethought “beyond material constraints”. The ability to store information simultaneously in multiple places is not only crucial to the way information is stored but also crucial to the speed at which information is retrieved. Bolter (2001) further discusses this issue in his study of hypertext and cites hyperlinking as the process by which the reader can “continue indefinitely…through the textual space…throughout the Internet” (p.27). An interesting facet of Wesch’s video is that he does not rely on lengthy text to illustrate his point, rather, he demonstrates visually the remediation of print by modeling the organizational affordances of hypertext on a single computer screen, devoid of the paper trail that previously defined information technology.

The nature of authority is touched upon in Information R/evolution and it is suggested that the nature of modern typographic culture has broadened the constraints of previously established information authority (academics, librarians etc.). Information R/evolution raises the issue of how people, either for personal or academic purposes, come to find the information they are seeking and what format they are ultimately presented with. Simply put, “together, we create more information than experts”, is a powerful truth that highlights not only the responsibility of those posting on the web to categorize their information, but also the fact that authorship is seemingly more open. The boundaries of expert and non-expert were more defined in a chirographic and early typographic culture whereby there was an entire process surrounding how one became an author and therefore, an authority. Wesch encourages the viewer to think about authority in the context of this information revolution. While there exists scholarly access points through university libraries, Google Scholar etc., the mainstream user relies on search engines such as Yahoo and Google in order to find definitive sources of information. The breadth of information allows the viewer to view not only authoritative sites (National Geographic, BBC, etc.) but also collaboratively edited sites (Wikipedia) and personal sites (parenting blogs, personal interest sites, etc.) thereby creating a multidimensional approach to any given topic.

However, Wesch indirectly highlights the flip side, which is the uncertainty of the information found. The access itself may be much easier by being able to use one’s personal computer to access library catalogues and search engines rather than searching, in person, through an onerous card catalogue, however, the expanse of the web does lessen the power of established authority. Wesch cites Wikipedia as an example by stating “Wikipedia has 15 times as many words as the next largest encyclopedia, Encyclopedia Britannica”. While this is a seemingly simple statement, it has much larger ramifications for the growing debate about authority on the web, as Wikipedia is a collaboratively created encyclopedia that can be openly edited. More powerful than this statement is the fact that Wesch uses a live screen clip showing himself editing Wikipedia in “real time” and then adding one more person to the tally of the 282,874 contributors that appeared at the time, illustrating the very fluid and “living” nature of information on the Internet.  While effective in drawing forth questions about authority and research, I would be interested to see Wesch explore, more closely, the nature of how one conducts research through a similarly styled video.

Bolter speaks of the “breakout of the visual” and in that spirit, Wesch shows that the dominating visual message of Information R/evolution can be just as powerful as written prose exploring the same topic. Wesch’s visual inspires reflective thought about the evolution of information but also the current revolution taking place in terms of information organization, conducting research and the nature of authority.


Bolter, Jay David. (2001). Writing space: Computers, hypertext, and the remediation of print [2nd edition]. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Ong, Walter. (2002) Orality and literacy: The technologizing of the word. London: Methuen.

Wesch, Michael. (2007). Information R/evolution . Retrieved from

1 comment

1 Clare Roche { 11.29.09 at 10:51 am }

I found your commentary very interesting.

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