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Blogs, Wikis, and Listservs: New Virtual Communities

The explosion of blogs as a popular and scholarly communications medium is but one example of how the Internet has spawned new genres, including diaries, journals, newsletters and other forms of exchange, commentary, and media capture. In a recent panel discussion sponsored by the UCI Libraries and HumaniTech® titled "Knowledge or Information?" Blogs, Wikis and Listervs," scholars defined the genres and explored new issues.

Image by Mel Horan





The November 10th panel was moderated by Lynn Mally, Professor of History. Speakers represented diverse backgrounds and disciplines. Dr. Elizabeth Losh, Writing Director for the Humanities Core Course, set the stage by defining new terminology such as “blogs” and “wikis” from the point of view of scholars and writers. Blogs by definition reflect points of view, whereas wikis strive to have “no point of view” (NPOV). The premier example of a wiki is the popular wikipedia.com, an online encyclopedia which, unlike its print counterparts, is written by random contributors and is in a state of constant revision.

Kevin Roderick, a former editor and journalist at the Los Angeles Times and the founder and publisher of laobserved.com, a highly visible and respected commentary on the Los Angeles cultural and political scene, emphasized the impact that blogs have for the public community. He demonstrated that blogs go beyond personal diaries and gossip by reporting real news. Currently more than twenty million blogs exist that run the gamut from the mainstream and serious to the radical and trivial.

Josh Fouts, director of the Center on Public Diplomacy at USC, affirmed that blogs and wikis are coming into their own to create understanding among nations and cultures. They are not to be confused with propaganda tools. According to Fouts, every citizen is a potential journalist, just as every soldier is a potential war correspondent.

Chet Grycz, a publishing executive of both print and online publications, addressed three themes: libraries and archives, digital images, and the context of digital publishing. He introduced his “5-M model”: multiformat, multicultural, multilingual, multivariant, and multi-use. This model illustrates movement from standard to active publishing by converting information to knowledge through standard file formats, and by respecting and celebrating multicultural traditions, recognizing distinctions, combining forms, and applying flexibility.

The program raised many interesting issues, including archival retention, personalization, translation, and academic values. The concept of “virtual community” was explored, and discussion suggested that we are in a transitional state as these new media evolve.

For more information about the Libraries’ scholarly communications program, please contact Lorelei Tanji (ltanji@uci.edu or x45216) or Carol Hughes (hughes@uci.edu or x49753).


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