Technology Changes Spread of Info

Internet technology is shaping the way that people receive information and blurring the separation between professional and personal news reporting, according to panelists at a Nov. 10 discussion titled ‘Information or Knowledge: Blogs, Wikis and Listservs.’

Lynn Mally, a UC Irvine history professor, introduced the four panelists: Elizabeth Losh, director of UCI’s Humanities Core Course; Josh Fouts, director of the Public Diplomacy Center at USC; Kevin Roderick, former Los Angeles Times editor turned blogger; and Chet Grycz, former CEO of Octavo, a company that preserves printed works digitally.

The panelists discussed two types of digital information sources: wikis and blogs.

Wikis are Web sites which can be edited by users. According to Losh, wikis are designed to self-check because the global community can edit the information.

However, according to Losh, there are problems about the wikis, such as copyright, vandalism and commercialized intrusions.

Wikis also work on the principle of being strictly informative. However, maintaining a neutral point of view may not always be possible.

‘Is it possible to write anything with no point of view?’ Losh asked rhetorically.

As opposed to wikis, blogs (short for ‘Web logs’) are edited by only one person.

Roderick, the blogger behind L.A. Observed, spoke about his background as an L.A. Times editor and his transition to blogging.

He answered the question of why a journalist with mainstream credentials would make the transition to blogging.

‘I am trying to … show people that you can bring journalistic standards to this medium,’ Roderick said. ‘Some blogs are journalism. Some are not. Millions are not. But thousands are.’

Roderick also addressed the way the L.A. Times and many other newspapers are luring in readers via the Internet by adding blogs to their Web sites.

‘The L.A. Times generates 10 blogs now,’ Roderick said. ‘Readership is going away and they need to draw in new readers. There are blogs out there with more readers than the biggest newspapers of the country.’

Readers of blogs are directed to original sources via hyperlinks, or are presented with quotations. They can peruse sources that have been filtered for them by bloggers.

‘There is a whole gamut of serious bloggers,’ Roderick said. ‘It’s a mixture from linking to other stories in news sites, a little bit of analysis of what is in the media and incorporation of quotes from newspaper sites.’

Technology is so widespread now that information can be accessed or provided by anyone. People are writing and reading blogs to investigate questionable information they are receiving from mainstream media, according to Fouts.

‘One of the great things about blogs is that every citizen can be a journalist,’ Fouts said.

Grycs spoke about his experience with Internet information technology through listservs dedicated to Central and Eastern European libraries. A listserv is an e-mail mailing list on a particular topic.

‘I lurked and learned through [a particular] listserv,’ Grycs said. ‘If you think of information as a static element, then knowledge influences one’s point of view and changes behavior. … My experience with the listserv is an example of going through static information to an active use of knowledge.’

Grycs attributed the rise of blogging to ‘the psychological desire to be empowered, to speak out [and] to act responsibly.’

Students who were unfamiliar with new information technology were impressed with the presentation.

‘I wasn’t aware of what blogs are exactly,’ said Li Li, a third-year political science and international studies major. ‘I just had an idea that they are personal Web sites where people will write about their dog. I’m getting frustrated with the traditional venues for news, so I’ll definitely look into blogs such as Kevin Roderick’s to find my news.’

Brittany Streets, a second-year psychology major, also came away with a better idea of blogging.

‘I thought blogs were just online diaries,’ Streets said. ‘The panelists educated me on how powerful blogs are for social commentary and finding information.’