Letter to the Readers

Dear Readers,

In this year’s volume of The 21st Century Text, “Covered and Exposed,” we explore the shifting ways that information is shared and interpreted on the World Wide Web. We  consider the influence of the digital medium on language and the credibility of the information it presents, particularly in light of the increase of unrestricted access to the public sphere and the unmediated content published therein. Among the issues we discuss are current concerns with “fake news,” the manipulation of truth, and how these phenomena are not as new as we might think.

In Are Digital Tools Degrading Writing?  the changes  in the way people have communicated through the ages are highlighted.  Different ages provide opportunities and constraints but today all is exposed with the speed of countless digital applications. Does this mean that today’s writer has to be even more skilled?

The article Fake News in the Ancient World presents three examples of misinformation in the study of the history of the ancient Near East. Roman rulers widely disseminated their selective messages and their propaganda, to their subjects on the coins that they minted; Biblical texts and Aramaic royal inscriptions contain divergent and irreconcilable accounts of the same event, and archaeologists have sometimes misinterpreted the ancient remains dug up by the spade. The search for the historical reality behind the artifacts and the ancient written sources requires active critical analysis.

The “Wild West” of Fake News examines the most recent trends in the spread of misinformation.  The article considers ways in which we can confront this new “Wild West” that the internet and social media platforms have created.

The article A Guide for the Distressed: Internet Spaces for Education and Support addresses the utility of the internet as an accessible and anonymous space. People suffering from mental health disorders are able to find help and a community where they can expose their vulnerabilities and talk about their struggles without shame. These communities use cyberspace to improve discourse on the subject and aid in the destigmatization of mental illness.

FAQs started as a response to ListServ help forums where new participants asked repetitive questions about the same topic. Subsequently, it has become accepted practice for most websites to adopt the popular FAQ format in order to inform the user of their product and anticipate their questions. However, research shows that the FAQ format isn’t necessarily helpful to users. In the article Are FAQs Effective? this issue is explored and debated.

We hope you enjoy the collection presented in this volume.

The 21st Century Text

June 2019


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