While history requires statefulness, the very nature of the Internet is statelessness. State requires libraries, checks and balances, error-correction, and memory. While there are indeed ways to “look back” into the history of the Internet, the emergent, collaborative nature of the Internet makes the corruption and influence of online content impossible to prevent and improbably to police. The entire concept of “History” being “written by the victors.” On the Internet, the victors are those who are able to best control and maintain the message.
Does History + Internet = Wikiality?
Wikipedia is an amazing example of emergent truth and collaborative content. Wikiality is the term coined in the Colbert Report to be “reality as defined by a consensus, particularly in a collaborative endeavor such as Wikipedia.”
Any user can change any entry and if enough other users agree with them, it becomes true. … If only the entire body of human knowledge worked this way. And it can, thanks to tonight’s ‘Word’: Wikiality. Now I’m no fan of reality, and I’m no fan of encyclopedias. I’ve said it before: Who is Britannica to tell me that George Washington had slaves? If I want to say he didn’t, that’s my right. And now, thanks to Wikipedia, it’s also a fact. We should apply these principles to all information. All we need to do is convince a majority of people that some factoid is true. â€”Stephen Colbert, “The Word,” The Colbert Report, July 31, 2006
Historians as Participants
Until the last couple decades, short history was controlled by newspapers and journalists and long history was controlled by Universities and historians. Now and in the future, Wikiality will influence “reality” more and more, allowing interested parties to more readily influence not merely the popularly-perceived concepts of “truth” and “real” but also the permanent recordings of history.
Where Propaganda and History Collide
It is essential for the safe keepers of history to aggressively participate in offering their insight, expertise, and the fruits of their knowledge online; otherwise, the jealous they will become irrelevant, replaced by some consensus reality, spoken into reality by the hoi polloi, or “the common people.”
The Future of History
The Internet is to the journalist and historian what the printing press was to the Church. The magic of the Bible was held hostage by those who had access to the text. The Gutenberg Bible offered everyone the ability to misunderstand, misinterpret, and misread the Bible. The Internet â€“ and blogs especially â€“ allows zero barrier to entry to anyone who wants to report news, analyze current events, or participate in politics and public affairs.
Is History Written by the Bloggers
Only time will tell if historians will be made irrelevant or not. Bloggers certainly have put Mainstream Media on the defense and popular media and culture have done an amazing job at influencing classical and academic culture, in many ways “dumbing down” reportership. Public Relations, Communications, and Marketing firms have done an amazing job of manipulating these vulnerabilities. Historians and the academy need to “blog or perish.”