Proposal — eBooks and the Wikipedia connection

Seamless accessibility to the same authority

Research question:

Could the reference menu interface within in eBook apps like Apple’s iBooks application act to prescribe a dependency on Wikipedia as a singular reference?


  • prescribed behavior, dependency, accessibility, eBooks,assemblage, control


“Media, by altering the environment, evoke in us unique ratios of sense perception…When these ratios change, men change..” (McLuhan, pg. 41)
“Environments are not passive wrappings, but are,rather, active processes which are invisible. The ground rules, pervasive structure, and over-all patterns
of environments elude easy perception.” (McLuhan, pg.69)
“Humans may dedicate to technologies but the technology invariably prescribe back.” (Slack & Wise pg. 146)
“When the environment of instant information becomes the hidden ground of all perception, choice, and preference, the ground that underlays the world of precise and quantifiable scientific study is pushed aside or dissolved.” (McLuhan pg. 110)


Wikipedia seamlessly integrates into Apple’s iBook application. A quick right click of a mouse or double tap on a word allows readers to gain quick access to a small number of online reference options like a dictionary, a thesaurus, and Wikipedia, among others. As readers work to interpret their digital content in their iBooks, they become accustomed to their ability to easily access extended information. They routinely and mundanely follow the path to a Wikipedia page that delivers a brief description or explanation of the word or phrase they selected. Once they gather their information, they may easily toggle back to their reading with very little consideration as to the source of the content provided. Toggling off topic also poses an interruption in reading comprehension and understanding for the reader. They may become distracted by the information given on the Wikipedia page, and they begin an entirely new train of thought apart from the writers intent.

The assemblage of the iBook application and the Apple platform both on the desktop and mobile devices has created an environment that interconnects a user through a web of interfaces that deliberately encourage a reader to become reliant on the Wikipedia as a primary source of information. The iBook interface prescribes two particular dependencies through its user interface:

1. Becoming accustomed to gaining quick information when we are working to comprehend new knowledge through reading.

2. Becoming dependent upon and indifferent to, the content within solely within Wikipedia.

The network of technology assembled by iBooks and similar eBook platforms engulfs us in a virtual web that connects us to other technology “actors” that serve as further distractions from the task at hand. These interruptions and distractions may begin to alter the way we comprehend information. Additionally, when a reader is provided with quick access to and interchange of information users may become less likely to make inferences within the content and become disassociated from the structure of the author’s content.

Wikipedia is essentially own, managed and controlled by a relatively small collection of people and it disseminates information to a worldwide audience. If it is continually and preferentially accessible through eBooks, we may risk accepting the information it supplies without compunction allowing us to become uniquely dependent on one central port of intellect.


Does the instant access to a worldwide resource like Wikipedia within eBook platforms risk a dependency on Wikipedia as a singular resource; a platform, database, and server that is controlled by a small assemblage of people?