The web is changing not just how we think about knowledge, but how we think about its absence.
Yesterday's news that Dick Clark had died at the age of 82 was met not only with surprise and sadness, but also with some confusion.
who is dick clark?-- Joshua Rivera (@supersloth) April 18, 2012
I don't know who Dick clark is-- Coolio (@ol4Ni3L) April 18, 2012
I feel so bad for not knowing who dick clark is :T-- Jus†ιnnnnη_♥ (@Jayqotchu_Like) April 19, 2012
who is Dick Clark?-- abby akers (@aaabbykirsten) April 19, 2012
Is it bad that I have no idea who Dick Clark is? #oopsies-- Kaley Prier (@ShutupkkKaley) April 19, 2012
Go ahead and call me a dumbass.. But who the hell is dick Clark?! #fillmein-- Zac Conn (@Zconn421) April 19, 2012
It's totally legitimate that younger people wouldn't know who Dick Clark is. It's totally legitimate, even, that older people wouldn't know who Dick Clark is: "American Bandstand" is not the most contemporary of shows, and most of us are doing other things on December 31 than watching "New Year's Rockin' Eve." What's interesting, though, is what the tweeters above -- and their thousands of fellow "Who's Dick Clark?" queriers -- did with their ignorance. Rather than do a Google search for "Dick Clark," rather than look him up on Wikipedia, rather than avail themselves of the approximately 5,000 other web-based mechanisms that exist solely to rectify the world's ignorance, these people asked their followers on Twitter.
For some of them, the question might have been simply ironic -- or, more specifically, an ironic declaration of generational/sociological affiliation. (Who's Justin Bieber?) For many, though, the question seemed like an honest one: "Guys, I don't know this person everyone's talking about. Help me out." It wasn't just that the "Who's Dick Clark" crowd were embracing their ignorance; it was that, through Twitter, they were trying to rectify it.