The Literary cage that is Citation

I'm sure all of you understand citation. But basically it is where you give credit to someone when you quote them or summarize their work. And to that end it is a valid and important part of writing.

I have however come to the conclusion that citation is currently being used as a tool to devalue original thought. What I mean is literary works are said to be weak if they don't site anyone. Now if they are actually based off of another work that is plagiarism. But what about the ones that are actually original works. Should they be of less value because they are not backed by a body of existing work?

I have a strong background in IT as some of you may have guessed. And what I have found is it isn't uncommon for some details of software or hardware products to be undocumented. So there is actually a large body of knowledge held by technical professionals such as by self that you probably won't find in a book or scholarly work. You might be able to find that type of information on forum posts or if your lucky a wiki. However the question is would it be valid to write a work on these topics purely from personal experience. Would it be less valuable to other IT professionals who have not had the experience with a given topic? Is it impossible to be considered Authoritative even if the information can be proven by simply trying it out?

In my college research class surveys, first hand experience and such is referred to as a primary source. And using another persons work is considered a secondary source. So this begs the question why is it that secondary sources seem to be more important. Companies go so far as to pay other companies to conduct research for them and then site that research in their own works. How is having another company with a vested interest in you liking the results doing a study more legitimate than a company doing their own research? If someone else says it does it make it true? If only one person says something does that mean it is false? Is a work that provides more information to support and idea inferior to one that provides little information but sites other sources? Do more source make a work more trustworthy?

Consider the following if cited scholarly works are the best source for information why are blogs, forums, and news groups so popular. If only cited works are trustworthy what good are they? In my experience forums provide better quality & quantity of information over official source. If I have a problem with a printer do you think I go to the manufacturers site to get information? Nope I just type the error or general problem description into google and I normally end up with a forum post that has the solution. This is true for more than printers. Computer software is probably an even better example in terms of quality of information. But printers are something that most people have to deal with at some point. Software is also to some extent but normal users software needs typically aren't that high in my experience. So if original thought is good enough for solving possibly mission critical problems why isn't it good enough for literary works?

It seems that people think because other people agree with them that they and by extension their works are better than those that don't have any works to reference. Historically new ideas don't come from the whole of humanity. They come from individuals and groups. So what if these free thinkers? In the past some have been ridiculed by their peers and in some cases killed. Modern society is heavy with themes like march to your own drum or be your own person. Which seems to go as far as professional literary works and then stops. All of a sudden your ideas and your research are not good enough. Truth despite popular opinion isn't relative. If you can prove something to be true than why does it need a citation to be considered true and valid?

So in conclusion Although citation is a valid part of writing I think it is actually being used to inhibit original thought. I would even go so far as to say it makes people who explore the depths of their interests competitively disadvantaged.

So one final thought. Which is more reliable a shared option with little information or a single work with a great deal of provable information?


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