15. The Information Stuporhiway

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Instructions for Lesson 15

1. Read this page.
2. Add three more sources to your research journal (assigned in Lesson 12.)
3. Beware the internet!



Left: beware Greeks bearing laptops! 



Module 1

1: Orientation  
2: Goals   

Module 2

  3: Euthyphro  
     4: The Library
 5: The Apology   
    6: Citation   
    7: Crito
    8: Phaedo  
    9: Exam Prep   
10: Plato Exam

Module 3

11: Research Project 
12: Research 101   
13: Books   
14: the Librarian   
15: the Web   
16: conferences  
17: Joy of Research 
18: Reasoning 

Module 4

19: Outlines 
20: Review the Plan:
21: Language 
22: Dr E's Grammar
23: Peer Review  
24: Hit Parade 

Module 5

25: About the Exam
26: Mock Final 
27: Exam Prep
28: Graduation 


  1. Item

Left: This Penguin edition of The Last Days of Socrates from 1993 says, on the back cover: "The cover shows a bust of Socrates in the Louvre, Paris." Actually, the famous bust is the ancient Greek poet Homer. Penguin finally caught its embarrassing error and reissued the book with a new cover in 2002. On the internet, however, dozens of these pictures of "Socrates" remain, and new ones continue to be produced, as web site authors blindly copy and copy and copy. . . 

But what if Socrates actually could be reborn 300 years before he died? Is reverse-incarnation true? Surely this is a good research question for investigation on the internet. Could we someday be reborn as Socrates or King Arthur or Queen Victoria or Mary Todd Lincoln? Would we remember our stories from our readings in a "past" life? Would we have no power to alter those stories? Would we see that history is our fate or that it is completely meaningless? Let's take a chatroom poll to find out!

2. Cool eLecture:
Browsing the Information Stuporhiway

What's  an "eLecture" ? It's only a collection of links that requires you to guess whether it has meaning and, if so, what it possibly could be. This is one of the latest innovations in self-service education. If you take a course by eLecture at the U-Learn, just hope that some of the links aren't dead.

So where do we get started?

On TC3 Library's Gateway, the cosmos is divided into three regions: Articles and Databases (which we explored in our Library Assignments), Books & Media (which we surfed in the Day 13 Lecture), and somewhere far more strange than my generation ever knew, Internet Resources. At last we have arrived at this third part of space, the newest and most dangerous region in our universe of sources. So watch out for worms, get out your lazer guns, and prepare to beam down! Or up?

Because web pages worldwide now number in billions, the internet is easily the most confusing place to do serious research. Our brains are no more adapted for coping on the 'Net than on Neptune. The internet provides more ways to get distracted and lost in information, and misinformation, than ever before in human history. We can hope to search successfully in this alien environment only with the help of the best search engines and electronic guides.

The following general sites are among those that are the most valuable for academic work. Have a look through the list. Browse to find additional sources for your research project. You may be surprised at what you see!

General Search Engines (for important searches try using more than one)
: not all, but over 3 billion pages, including many non-USA sites.
Alta Vista
: good search features here, but the directory is commercial.
: the US internet standard, but advertisers to pay for listings, so search results are commercially biased
Internet Archive: Wayback Machine : oldies but goodies, snapshots of the web back to 1996.
Teoma : improves search results using site rankings by number of links on same subject webs. Good concept.
Vivisimo : uses clustering technology for improved search results. (Makes sense to me!)

Meta-Search Engines (for results compiled from general search engines)
Ask Jeeves
: allows plain English inquiries; a meta-search engine that looks at results from other search engines
: good search features available through "advanced search"

Internet Subject Directories and Guides
Complete Planet
directories and lists of databases organized by topic 
Google Directory: Reference standard internet directory but biased by commercial interests 
scholarly collections of academic databases 
Internet Public Library juvenile focus, great for youngsters
Librarians' Index to the Internet catalog of sources organized by subject 
Library of Congress and Library of Congress Online Catalog  what a few billion in tax revenues can buy! 
Libweb: Library Servers via WWW a directory of library web sites. You may never return from here  

General Reference (and writing helps) 
Acronym lookup template (ALT): Acronym Finder
Dictionary : Cambridge Dictionaries Online,    
Merriam-Webster,    yourDictionary.com 
Encyclopedia: Catholic Encyclopedia,   Columbia Encyclopedia,   Information Please Almanac, 
Quotations: Bartlett's Familiar Quotations (1919),   Simpson's Contemporary Quotations (1950-1988)  
Reference desks: Martindale's Reference Desk,      Refdesk.com,      Smithsonian  
Statistics: Ameristat,    U.S. Census Bureau,  
Thesaurus: Merriam-Webster Thesaurus,    Roget's II: The New Thesaurus  

Selected Reference Topics  
Astronomy: AstroWeb  
Biographies: Lives: the Biography Resource (very uneven quality)  
Environment: Environmental Organization Directory    EnviroLink
Health: MEDLINEplus, Merck Manual of Medical Information,
World Health Organization

Law: Guide to Law Online, Cornell Legal Information Institute  
Math: MathSearch  
New York State government: NYS government information locator  
Psychology: APA Psycholoquy  
Sciences: National Science Foundation,   Nova Online  
United Nations: UN.Org; for countries see also Library of Congress Portals to the World  
US government portal: FirstGov  
World information (CIA): World Factbook

TC3 Library Gateway Listings by Degree Program
Business Administration  
Chemical Dependency  
Communication and Media Arts  
Criminal Justice  
Early Childhood Education  
English Literature  
Environmental Studies  
Graphic Design and Computer Graphics  
International Business  
Sport Management  
Travel and Tourism

Media and Publications  
Media organizations: ABC with annoying popup ads   BBC   CNN   C-Span   MSNBC    PBS   
News magazines:  Time with annoying popup adsUS News & World Report & similar ads,   
Newspapers:  Electronic news    NewsWise

I hope that some of these links are helpful. Perhaps you can suggest others that ought to be included in this list.

3. Socrates in cyberland

For instance, what can we learn about Socrates on the Internet?

Most of all, we learn that there are lots of books about him for sale. Most hits are book ads or ads for ready-made student term papers. (There's even a Platopapers.com site for purist Platonic plagiarists.) Occasionally there's a high end ad with a little book discussion, such as:


"The Trial of Socrates." Radio National Encounter. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 16 Apr 2000. 2 Mar 2004. 
< http://www.abc.net.au/rn/relig/enc/stories/
> This is a radio interview with several professors who have written or edited books on the subject.

"I.F. Stone Breaks the Socrates' Story." < http://www.law.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/
> Washington muckraker I.F. Stone reveals the strong personal biases that underly his best selling book on Socrates.

We also learn that people have other fantasies about Socrates that they want to sell to the public:

Socrates fantasy: Josh Becker, The Last Days of Socrates: (a Xena Warrior Princess screenplay).

Socrates musical (in Arabic): Mansour Rahbani's The Last Days of Socrates.

Socrates personal trainer and business consultant: Ron Gross, Socrates' Way: Seven Keys to Using Your Mind to the Utmost. Everyone I met in the streets of 5th century Athens seemed to be using "conventional wisdom" instead of thinking things through for themselves. The trouble was, these commonplaces all have their contraries: If you cite "Fools rush in where angels fear to tread," I can counter with "He who hesitates is lost." You cannot fall back on received wisdom to guide your life. Do you have ways to think your own thoughts?

We learn that you can summarize "the last days of Socrates" on one page--and have room left over where you can ask for money:

"Last Days of Socrates by Plato." The Great Books Foundation. 2 Mar 2004. <http://www.greatbooks.org/library/guides/plato.shtml> This site sells books and courses and conferences and volunteers, and it solicits financial support.

Bonsembiante, Fernando. "Plato-The Death of Socrates." Notas por Fernando Bonsembiante. 2 Mar 2004 < http://303.ubik.to/socrates.html > Here's a quick one page retelling of Phaedo, with the ideas removed for easier reading.

And of course we learn extraordinary new facts about Socrates and the dialogues :

Plato continues his relation of the last days of Socrates by presenting him in the days immediately following the trial in his "The Euthyphro". "The Last Days of Socrates." Age-of-the-Sage.Org. 2 Mar 2004. <http://www.age-of-the-sage.org/last_days_socrates.html>. This site also accepts money from you, if you are good enough to be a charitable person!

Yes, cursed be Socrates, Plato, and all the "intellectual" petty Hitlers, Stalins, FDRs and other big-government butt kissers since. "Socrates Had It Coming." Patrick Henry on Line. 2 Mar 2004 < http://users.mo-net.com/mlindste/socrates.html > The internet is a great place to rave. The search engines actually listen! And now, for the times that you can't be on the internet, you can buy Mr. Henry's CD!.

rush limbaugh, plato, socrates and rush limbaugh rush limbaugh, plato, socrates and rush limbaugh would've gotten along on the jolly roger. plato, socrates and rush limbaugh plato, socrates and rush limbaugh would've gotten along on the jolly roger. plato, socrates and rush limbaugh plato, socrates and rush limbaugh would've gotten along on the jolly roger.Jolly Roger.com 3 Mar 2004 < http://jollyroger.com/platosocratesrushlimbaugh.html > An anonymous contributor to an anonymous page in an unattended internet cafe pasted a page full of nonsense repetitions that Yahoo, Alta Vista and Metacrawler found worthy of attention in searches for Plato and Socrates.

Socrates was a very famous philosopher in ancient Greek times. Philosophy students still study the thinking of Socrates today. He believed that we should pursue the truth, because ultimately knowledge was something strong and we would make better decisions by knowing the truth. Untitled. Our House: Barry's List. 3 Mar 2004. < http://www.fastbk.com/barryslist/eight.htm > A lot of kids like to publish their wisdom online; a search engine never enquires about the age of the author.

We learn that some amateurs spend a lot of time developing sites on Socrates, and they may even use academic or quasi-academic citation:

Beck, Sanderson. "Confucious and Socrates: The Teaching of Wisdom." Literary Works of Sanderson Beck. 2 Mar 2004 <http://www.san.beck.org/C%26S-Contents.html> This is part of a site that teaches "spiritual philosophy" and advocates nonviolence. Beck is seeking the democratic party's nomination for President.

Suzanne, Bernard. Plato and His Dialogues. 2 Jan 2004. 3 Mar 2004. < http://plato-dialogues.org/plato.htm > Suzanne is a French banker who develops this well-regarded site as a hobby.

But sadly we learn that there aren't many sophisticated academic sources, as academics have chosen mainly to resist putting their teachings out there on the internet free of charge. (What would Socrates think about that?) There are of course a few extraordinary exceptions, such as:

Andersen, Kent and Norm Freund. "The Last Days of Socrates." Clarke College Philosophy Department. 26 Jun. 2004 < http://socrates.clarke.edu/ >

Griswold, Charles. "Plato on Rhetoric and Poetry." Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 22 Dec 2003. 26 Jun 2004
< http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/plato-rhetoric/ >

Katz, Marilyn. "The Trial and Death of Socrates: Background Materials." 16 Jun. 2004 < http://mkatz.web.wesleyan.edu/socrates/

Ravitch, David. "Agana Belea and the Death of Socrates." The Proceedings of the Friesian School. 26 Jun 2004 < http://www.friesian.com/ravitch.htm > This lecture is but one of many on the Friesian site.

So what's the bottom line?

1. Buyer beware!

2. The internet can be much simpler than it looks.

3.. Occasionally you can find a gem that you weren't looking for. such as::

Chalmers, David. Philosophical Humor

But your professor probably wasn't looking for it, either.

Assignment for Lesson 16: add three more sources, and whatever else you want, to your research journal (as assigned in Lesson 12.)



Would Socrates love it on the web!








Left: The internet was invented by former US Vice President Al Gore. You can learn this interesting factoid and ten billion others simply by spending the rest of your life on your browser with an army of dedicated research associates in your pay. But what's a factoid? A piece edu-tainment? Do you believe in it?



gutchess@englishare.net                    Academic writing home page                    Gary Gutchess 2003