I don’t suppose it’s actually a confession, since my background’s available publicly on my CV, but I do admit to not being a media expert. As is often said, the British higher education system doesn’t so much make one an expert as it teaches one how to become an expert. The truth of the matter is, the critical thinking skills of higher education, plus your own reading and analysis, are what eventually produce expertise. Still, I miss not having taken a degree in media studies and what I anticipate I’d have learned, if I had. You see, what I miss, even on the internet (which is mainly trying to sell you things), is basic data. Okay, so Wikipedia has it, but not enough of it. Not enough to keep up with media, in any case. I recently came by a couple of series on IMDb that I wanted to know more about. Neither had a synopsis and neither was on Wikipedia. The open web search that followed, even with “quotation marks” simply led to blind alleys, where, it turns out, you can buy stuff.
We are producing media at such a rate that keeping up is simply no longer possible. While I was working on my doctorate in Edinburgh, I tried as hard as humanly possible to find and read everything previously published on Asherah. I think I did pretty well for pre-internet days. Now when I try to find everything on a topic I’m limited to the internet, and it simply doesn’t contain enough information. Take these two series, for example. No amount of searching brought up anything significant about them. They weren’t exactly obscure, either. Information was simply missing. Like after the 1965 MGM vault fire, the information was just not to be found.
It may seem impossible to believe, but there remain tons of information, trivial and important, that simply can’t be found on the web. As a student in religious studies I learned about what used to be called Religion Index One. It was a resource published by the American Theological Library Association and it listed just about all the articles published on a topic. (It’s gone electronic now, I believe.) I keep thinking there most be something like it for media studies. But the new material keeps coming thick and fast, like a blizzard, and I’m not sure that such an index exists. I use IMDb a lot, but even that’s not complete. And nobody, it seems, is an expert on the entire internet. If you are such a person, please let me know. I have a few questions about media studies.