Digg has become a daily staple of my internet diet. I mostly end up in email discussions with my brother and our mini-distribution list about these things, but in my “process”, I’ve been thinking increasingly about online communities and technology. I read a great article about “the last thing you changed your mind about”, and Xeni Jardin answered that, for her, online communities was the last thing she revised her thinking on. Here’s the full article.
She basically makes the point that you can’t have comments without accountability.
“I grew to believe that the easier it is to post a drive-by comment, and the easier it is to remain faceless, reputation-less, and real-world-less while doing so, the greater the volume of antisocial behavior that follows. I decided that no online community could remain civil after it grew too large, and gave up on that aspect of internet life.” –Xeni Jardin from the Edge.com article above.
Here’s another article that lists the types of rogue/serious internet commentators, likening them to animals according to their characteristics. It’s perceptive, you should give it a glance.
What is interesting is that I’d started thinking about this before I read the article. I’ve often been entertained by random/funny/downright bizzarre comment threads on YouTube postings, and saw this great video–what would meetings look like if they were YouTube comment threads:
I went back and fort on my blog enabling and disabling comments, requiring authentification, allowing anonymous comments. Sometimes, when I had something artistic or personally important to me, that I wanted to share, I often felt frustrated that the comments would spin off on a detail that was trivial, and comments would snowball to the point where the heart of the matter felt lost to me.
The main issue, in my mind, is that technology develops faster than social mores do, and faster than our adaptation skills. Science advances faster than our understanding of long-term implications do (think cloning and the ongoing debate). Technologies develop faster than we grow the ability to use them efficiently (think all the wonders of instantaneous email communication crushed by constant forwards of PowerPoint presentations).
The last thing I changed my mind about was the iPhone.
The hype turned me against it, and then I got to use it and really loved it. I still feel strange about the instant accountability that iPhone users impose on all conversations, fact-checking instantly as you hesitantly quote a statistic, butcher a name or a music lyric, or can’t remember the last movie Dustin Hoffman was in.
But through my hesitation, I have to accept that the internet IS the way we now communicate. And that even as I pull my phone that “just” dials, I find myself in the same spot I was before I had a digital camera, where people were connecting on a technological level I couldn’t access because I hadn’t crossed that marker. Once I got my digital camera, those avenues opened.
I now find myself thinking, a cell phone without instant internet access is old technology, but I am still on the fence.
Because once you give technology an inch, it takes a mile, and you create a dependency that you can’t wean yourself off of.
I joined Facebook this year, and though I often think I should cancel my account, it keeps me connected to people I’d lost touch with. Even though I still feel like I lost my privacy, I accept that “privacy”, in this new technological era, is getting re-defined as we speak.