Is our readers learning?
January 22, 2009
Do you feel proactive when you consult a reference work? Jorge Cauz, president of Encyclopaedia Britannica,thinks you should:
What we are trying to do is shifting … to a much more proactive role for the user and reader where the reader is not only going to learn from reading the article but by modifying the article and – importantly – by maybe creating his own content or her own content
The reader is going to “learn… by modifying”? So the people modifying the articles don’t actually need to know anything about the subject before they start modifying? The modifying itself is supposed to be the way they learn? That’s “proactive”! ((But what, dear readers, does the horrible term “proactive” actually add to the sense of, um, “active”?)) Oh, but luckily, edits won’t go live until approved by “one of the company’s staff or freelance editors”. I suppose they can always check whether the new material looks correct by, er, going to Wikipedia. ((I confess that I have never edited my own Wikipedia article so as to make myself look more important and central to the critical intellectual debates of our time, etc. Do you think I should?))
But it ill behoves me to carp at this exciting news. We can at least be very confident that, in time, Britannica will become a much more reliable source of information than it has hitherto been about old videogames and science-fiction TV series. Everybody wins!