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.

One thought on “The Obliteration Phenomenon

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

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

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