The Internet Era and Need for Dynamic Citations

I have started teaching ENG102 at a community college in Arizona and it’s been a real push of mine to promote awareness in my classes of the ever-changing landscape that is the World Wide Web.

We’re working on research papers, and I’m trying to emphasize how important it is that when they provide me with citations for their Internet sources (appropriate, trustworthy web news sources and articles, of course!) that they provide the Date of Access.

In MLA citations, the date of access should be listed at the end of a citation, followed by the webpage URL. For example, quotes from the Wikipedia entry on the 1969 New York Mets would be cited like this:

“1969 New York Mets.” Wikipedia.com. Web. 2 Nov. 2010. <http://en.wikipedia.org
/wiki/1969_New_York_Mets>.

I have been explaining that due to hypertextuality, content on the web is dynamic and constantly evolving and being updated. Unlike the trusty Page 2 of a newspaper in days of old, that frequently included a Corrections box pointing out errors, omissions and/or updates that might “change” the day’s news, we don’t always get a warning when sensitive web information is changed.

A fun page to look at is archive.org‘s Wayback Machine. Drawing from free-floating ghosts of pages that still exist in cyberspace, the Wayback Machine can re-generate the way old websites used to look “back in the day.” You can look at MTV.com from all the way back when the site was launched! Microsoft’s homepage, too. True, some assets, links and ads are missing, but you get a good idea of how a website can evolve over time.

Good to be aware of how impermanent the web really is when you’re using web sources to build supports for your “solid as a rock” arguments and thesis statements.

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