Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Distillation Needed?

When I think of the internet as a place where voices from all over can put themselves out there, I'm reminded of this poem:

Radio Thin Air
by Nick Flynn
Keep the radio on softly
so it sounds like two people in the next
room, maybe
your parents, speaking calmly about something
important--a lock
of cash, the broken
cellar pump. Marconi believed
we are wrapped in voices, that waves
never die, merely space themselves
farther & farther apart,
passing through the ether he imagined
floating the planets. But wander
into the kitchen & no one
will be there, the tiny red eye of the radio, songs
that crawl through walls,
voices pulled from air. Marconi
wanted to locate the last song
the band on the deck of the Titanic played,
what Jesus said
on the cross, he kept dialing
the frequency, staring across the Atlantic,
his ear to the water,
there, can you hear it?

But even though the Marconi in the poem believed all sound waves never die, he still searched specifically for the last song played on the Titanic and the voice of Jesus Christ. He felt compelled to distill the sounds "floating through the ether." How in the network of the internet do people go about distilling voices?
Sites like Wikipedia rely on their user base to keep the information in check, editing one another to stop misinformation from getting through, but I have yet to have a teacher since I began writing formal papers allow me to cite Wikipedia. Academia does not see the people who devote large chunks of their lives to editing the site as reliable. Still, I often begin on Wikipedia, using the sites sources as my sources to begin a paper, and I have been credited for having strong evidence to support my points on papers by teachers who won't credit the website that led me to those sources. How in a world where everyone can put their voice out into the ether with the click of a button does a voice become known as reliable? As the way we communicate changes so drastically, people must recognize that sources beyond those listed by academia as credible in the past are worthwhile in our present. But how can new voices work their way into the conversation?

1 comment:

  1. Excellent point about distilling the information. I also agree that we're all looking, on a subliminal level, for something specific. That is, the speaker in the poem instinctively realizes that the radio is not actually what he wanted to be greeted by in the other room.