January 11, 2012
MarkBernstein.org
 
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Credibility

At HTLit, Stacey Mason discusses recent musings by science journalist Kat Austen about credibility. Austen points out that knowing your source works at Microsoft Research inspires confidence; Mason asks whether this transfers to new media and invites responses to #eLitCred.

I don't buy it.

In the sciences, it shouldn’t matter where you work. Either your work is right, or it’s wrong, or we need to do some more work to find out. Where you work, what other people think of you, whether you’re well dressed or pleasant or have good connections—none of that matters.

And it doesn’t matter in new media, either. afternoon, a story was written by a community college teacher. Patchwork Girl was written by a university student. Go back to the first hypertext conference and look around the room and you see all sorts of affiliations: you had Halasz and Marshall and Trigg from Xerox PARC, which was then as weighty as you could get, but you also had Ted Nelson who was self-employed, Robert Akscyn and Peter J. Brown and Jef Raskin who had high-flying startups, Scott Johnson and Mark Bernstein from garage-scale startups. You had Landow from Brown and Crane from Harvard, but also Shneiderman from Maryland and Frisse from Washington St. Louis and Bolter from UNC.

I think it’s the same in letters, even today. Coover taught at Brown, De Lillo didn’t teach, and this carries no weight at all in assessing their work. Would a university affiliation change your opinion of Jennifer Egan or Allegra Goodman?