The current default citation systems are out of date and now is a great time to update them for the 21st Century.
The post is a bit rambly but this is where I am up to this point. Sorry about that. Also please excuse this post from using long traditional URL’s without the type of citation system I’m referring to. We’re working on that. I am so impatient for Liquid “ Author to be ready for real work you have no idea…
First of all, what’s wrong with citations? https://medium.com/advice-and-help-in-authoring-a-phd-or-non-fiction/academic-citation-practices-need-to-be-modernized-6eb2e4a44846 is a good introduction to the issues with legacy paper-based citation systems limits in our digital world.
The issues are numerous but the goal of why and how to update the system should be the focus. So what is the point of citations? The dry definition would be something along the lines of allowing academics to show sources of assertions, data and refer to other information outside the document which somehow validates, supports and puts the work into context. A slightly less dry definition would involve referring to the web of interconnected scientific papers and being able to see what influenced what by doing citation analysis, “…the examination of the frequency, patterns, and graphs of citations in articles and books” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Citation_analysis
A liquid definition would also include the ability for the academic reader and writer to navigate the web of citations and make quick sense at a glance and deep sense when required. The purpose of citations could be more poetically put as: Facilitating the movement and connection of knowledge.
On the Yale website, under “Why Cite?” “When you cite a source, you show how your voice enters into an intellectual conversation and you demonstrate your link to the community within which you work”
The quote from the Yale website puts it really well. It is the conversation that truly matters. So how can we better use citations in conversations?
When someone cites something, it is either to back up, refute or question an assertion, or to provide context. Of course also to avoid plagiarism but that is such a basic point I won’t go into it, since that is the ‘cover your ass’ aspect, rather than a knowledge adding aspect.
Immediate improvements in how citations can support the academic conversation includes:
1) The first point is that there should be Web Addresses attached to any and all citations, wherever possible, to facilitate the connection via digital means. This includes DOI’s and such of course, as the industry changes, this will need to change. The web addresses should support anchors to paragraphs, if not sentences so that you don’t have to refer to a whole document and printed pages don’t mean anything anymore of course. Doug would demand this one.
2) The second point is to integrate the citation into the text, rather than leave it isolated in (bracketed ghettos).
3) The third point is to give the citations a voice, a way for the writer to specify why the citation is used and this can be done with tagging the citation.
4) Fourthly, why not, when possible, take the whole darn cited document and embed it inside the document you are working on? Unless there are commercial reasons not to (should be easy enough to block in commercial cases) why not add the full document? Modern ‘documents’ are really containers with ‘files’ inside them containing multimedia, style sheets and so on. I suggest we add a file for ‘cited documents’ which have names based on their retrieval URLS.
5) Fifthly? I don’t know, but this is where the real innovations come in to play. How about giving any and all comments in a document their own URLs? This way you can refer to what someone said in a comment or conversation and it’ll be just a click away to see the rest of the conversation and context. How about letting the user record their web histories when they are working and provide such histories as journey’s complete with comments and tagging, and of course they need to be addressable too. Vannevar Bush’s MEMEX would start to happen.
This is where I am at the moment. I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please blog and link or email me: firstname.lastname@example.org