A few people have pointed out Michael Gorman’s blog posts, appropriately enough appearing on the Britannica blog. For reasons that evade me he has one general post split into two parts. Web 2.0 The Sleep of Reason Part I and Web 2.0 The Sleep of Reason Part II. Let me just say that Michael Gorman is a smart guy and I just wish the things he said didn’t sound so… snooty. Statements like these “The task before us is to extend into the digital world the virtues of authenticity, expertise, and scholarly apparatus that have evolved over the 500 years of print, virtues often absent in the manuscript age that preceded print.” are things I can totally get behind but then he follow-up in his later post with “Google cofounder Sergey Brin has said that ‘the perfect search engine would be like the mind of God,’ but most of us took that to be billionaire hyperventilating not blasphemy.” and I don’t understand why he has to be that way.
My take on what is happening has less to do with the nature of scholarship and more to do with the blurring of the idea of “research” as something we do for entertainment as well as scholarship. This may be something I think because I’m not really affiliated with an academic community and perhaps things have changed more than I am aware of, but I don’t think the idea of the expert is going away, only that it’s shifting in many of our interactions. So instead of us asking our expert mechanic for his or her opinion, we’ll check not only Consumer Reports but also epinions and maybe Edmunds.com when we’re buying a new car. We have more data because of the Internet and the network generally, and in many cases there’s no reason plain old humans can’t do something with that data. Gorman glibly refers to the idea his relief that there is “no discernable ‘citizen surgeon’ movement” but why is there a problem with citizen journalism? Especially if, like tagging and folksonomies, these trends are offered as supplments to the existing canon of options, not as supplanters of them?
update: aaaaand Clay Shirky’s reponse to Michael Gorman made boingboing