Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Concerning the Internet and Blogging

My suggestion wasn’t that good discussion isn’t worthwhile, rather that there is something about the Internet that catalyzes such discussions into screaming matches and competitions where those with the most outrageous conspiracy theories win (and note that you may indeed be disqualified from said contest if you try and support your claims with any valid information at all). All one has to do is look at the plethora of political blogs and see that the few that do offer good legitimate insight are infinitely outnumbered by the countless folks out there jamming angry at their keyboards and yelling piercingly through their computer screens.

I think this is probably due to the fact that it so easy to forget that there are actual people on the other side of the information super-highway and once you have forgotten that it becomes a simple matter to dehumanize everyone involved except yourself. Thus the end result is that people are much less concerned with the other guy then they would be if we were all, let us say, at the local tavern sipping a cold PBR. Where before you would most likely recognize that the opinion you were being presented with was important to the person presenting it and treat it with the respect which it entails, now you are free to completely ignore that fact. In short, as it has been similarly said of alcoholic drink, the Internet just turns you into the asshole you really are. However, I do have much hope that this will not be the immediate fate of this blog, as since we have to deal with each other on a daily basis I believe we will show much more respect to each other then your average blogger.

Of course this raises a more interesting question about the fate of the Internet. In the end is it going to be the great revolutionary tool for academia that it first promised to be or is it just going to be a source of stolen music, stolen movies and free pornography for the masses? Bread and Circus, anyone?


Blogger Christopher said...

Jake contends that "there is something about the Internet that catalyzes such discussions into screaming matches and competitions where those with the most outrageous conspiracy theories win" -- I would have to say it depends on what kinds of blogs and forums one frequents, and the 'Internet' being a mirror of society, there are many. My personal experience of 'St. Blog's Parish' -- the nickname for the loose-knit community of Catholic bloggers -- is one characterized overall by thoughtful posts and civilized discussion. The same probably could be said for religious bloggers in general -- the exceptions being those on the fringe (the far right or left, both prone to conspiracy theorizing).

Political blogging is another issue altogether, politics by its very nature tending to cultivate a spirit of contention and animosity -- do bloggers treat each other with more or less respect than your average newspaper columnist, television pundit, electoral campaign staff member or candidate? I'd say it's up for debate.
Of course you have your radical "Bush=Hitler" proponents who populate, but at the same time I could also point to political sites like the group blog Winds of Change (made up of religious and secular bloggers) or Dan Darling's personal blog Regnum Crusis, as sources for relatively calm and rational discussion of U.S. foreign policy and political issues in general.

I've been blogging for several years now and it seems to me that the internet can equally serve as a vehicle for fact-checking, to counteract rumors and conspiracies ( anyone?) -- those who attempt to advance any kind of conspiracy will be met with a host of critics willing to challenge their premises.

Plus, with the advent of blogging in general, I would suggest that more and more American citizens are participating in real discussion and an exchange of ideas. Or, alternatively, are engaged in self-reflection and writing in (1,855,025 active journals), which is no easy task if you've ever tried to maintain a journal. All in all I'd say it's a better use of time than vegging in front of the television.

So, while you're likely to find a good number of assholes online, I'm not sure whether it's disproportionate to the number of assholes you'd find on the street, or at your local watering hole. And there does seem to be potential in the internet for stimulating good discussion and worthy human interaction as well. Look at this blog, for instance. =)

(Christopher - former L-R grad)

September 22, 2004 at 6:38 PM  

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