The Obliteration Phenomenon

Alex Wright writes:

[…] a great deal of important work gets “obliterated” if you measure influence purely in terms of citations (or, I would argue, hyperlinks). Whiles citation analysis gives an excellent picture of how influence works in the great middle tier of scholarship, the technique falls on its face when it comes to truly groundbreaking work, which often tends to get buried in an avalanche of footnotes for follow-on, derivative works.

Which leaves me wondering, is there a corollary effect on the Web? The sheer explicitness of Web linking seems to privilege measurable manifestations of influence: Google pagerank, Technorati rankings, traffic stats, and so forth. Does such a myopic focus on metrics mask the subtler dimensions of influence? Are there hidden works out there exerting a deeper, implicit influence that doesn’t show up in terms of pagerank? This is a tough hypothesis to prove, but I suspect that pagerank and other supposedly meritocratic weighting algorithms give us an overly simplistic and potentially misleading notion of how influence really works.

Published by nchenga

Nchenga-nchenga is my nickname. Chiperoni.ch is my online playground, scrap book, and on-going collection of bookmarks and interesting quotes. Chiperoni is a Malawian term for cold, grey, rainy weather. I am a bridge blogger somewhere between Basel and Blantyre. The opinions and comments expressed here are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in anyway. So far, this blog is free of advertising or paid articles or similar.

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  1. Grafton, Anthony: The Footnote : A Curious History, HUP 1999. 🙂

    (the German title is so much better: Die tragischen Ursprünge der deutschen Fussnote.