Infomancy n. 1.The field of magic related to the conjuring of information from the chaos of the universe. 2.The collection of terms, queries, and actions related to the retrieval of information from arcane sources.

It’s all Grey Area

September 28th, 2006 by infomancy

How do you feel about Wikipedia? Is it good, or is it bad? What you may not realize is that the answer to that question is going to end up driving the development of the web as we know it. In a binary world of 1s and 0s, so many of the Web 2.0 technologies are looking rather like .5s. Or are they .4s? .6s?

The problem is that unlike the binary designations to which we reduce our digtial information, real information is much more chaotic. In the world of digital information, those clear divisions between 1 and 0, black and white, end as an ever-shifting landscape of grey. And that’s okay…as long as we are aware of the greyness and have a plan for dealing with it.

Actually, that isn’t a half-bad definition for information literacy – a plan to deal with grey areas of information. Think about it. We love Wikipedia because it is dynamic and can be quickly updated to reflect changing knowledge; about the former planet formerly known as Pluto for instance. At the same time, this very dynamic property that makes Wikipedia what it is leads to inaccuracies – either by chance or intention. You probably recall the issues over the John Seigenthaler article – which Wikipedia does a very nice job of covering in a bit of meta-encyclopedia work.

Good? Bad? Nah…it’s all grey. We had better begin studying all those different shades that are greyscale! Far from being a monochromatic black and white, a greyscale image rendered at 16 bits per pixel results in 65536 shades of grey.

2 Responses to “It’s all Grey Area”

  1. David Jakes Says:

    It’s not good, it’s not bad, it just is. I like your idea of grey a lot, and it fits with my view that Wikipedia is just another resource that could be used, but the content must be verified through an information evaluation protocol before being used. It’s grey content. Too many librarians, and teachers, dismiss Wikipedia almost immediately because of the social nature of the knowledge construction-when in fact, it is a great opportunity and teachable moment to validate the need for information literacy skills instruction.

    As a side note, whenever I introduce Wikipedia to kids, I pull up our school page on Wikipedia. I let them read that, and evaluate the content-after all, they are experts on the subject. Is it factual, or does it express inaccuracies? If so, who wants to fix them? Oh, and you can do it right now…

  2. Christopher Harris Says:

    One of the team here at the School Library System put it quite eloquently in a discussion we had this afternoon. Wikipedia, he said, is really just the Internet in a micro setting (one we can actually comprehend). Anyone can write something on Wikipedia, so we have to judge each piece of information carefully. Actually, we got talking about this because I just submitted a description for an upcoming conference presentation I am calling “Wikipedia: You Bet They are Using It!” Even worse than dismissing Wikipeida is failing to realize that it even exists or what it is.