Raising the Level of Civil Discourse

K. Lehman at Ed Tech in the Classroom pointed me toward a movement (and article) about Timesraising the level of discourse in the blogosphere. All of this discussion seems to stem from the Kathy Sierra incident. Considering the awful things people felt completely comfortable saying to and about Kathy online, you had to wonder what kind of people these folks were. My contention is that they are probably normal folks who feel empowered to be mean when they’re online. I’m not sure what it is that comes out in people online, but I have noticed that people tend to say things online that they would never say in person. In many cases, commenters level the equivalent of verbal abuse upon people they don’t even know. I have to wonder if they would say the same things if instead of commenting on a blog, they were in a lecture hall discussing an issue or at a town hall meeting. I don’t think most people would. I would like to think that the majority of people out there are pretty decent folks. But for some reason, they sometimes act like they’re 9 and back on the school playground again. I fully support a Blogger Code of Conduct, and when it is developed, it will be implemented here (I already have policies regarding comments that I strictly adhere to).

Do I feel this is censorship? No. If that person wants to post what he said, he or she is free to do so. But I am free not to have it on my site that I pay money to maintain. I have no problem with someone who disagrees with me. I have a big problem with someone who can’t do it in a civil manner and then expects me to keep their inflammatory and abusive remarks online or else I’m “censoring” them.

By the way, I have installed a new spam plugin called Spam Karma. I want to warn you that until you build up karma through the plugin, your comments might not immediately post. It doesn’t mean they won’t appear — they will simply be moderated.

[tags]Blogger Code of Conduct, blogging, comments[/tags]

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2 thoughts on “Raising the Level of Civil Discourse

  1. It's funny — I don't support a generic blogger code of conduct, that I would have to adhere to. I do, however, have my own blogging principles.

    http://lizditz.typepad.com/i_speak_of_dreams/2005

    You (and your students) might want to read and discuss dana boyd's latest essay (opening paragraphs appended)

    http://www.zephoria.org/thoughts/archives/2007/04

    cyberbullying

    I find myself increasingly uncomfortable with conversations about 'cyberbullying.' I fear that by emphasizing 'cyber' the term clouds what's really going on. Don't get me wrong – the internet, like all technologies before it, has altered the dynamics of bullying, but why didn't my generation of 'telebullying'? Three-way calling allowed people to bully from home with others virtually present for the attacks. Of course, i know the answer to that… bullying over the internet is not just a technological advance of bullying, but an advance that makes the attacks visible to adults.

    I think it's important to acknowledge that bullying that takes place in mediated publics (blogs, social network sites, etc.) and through private messaging in a surveilled computer (IM, email, etc.) is visible to adults in ways that note-passing, bathroom-wall-scribbling, and phone bullying just aren't. And most kids are smart enough to do physical bullying outside of the view of adults, but a huge amount of physical bullying takes place at school where adults are nearby: recess, bathroom, school bus, under the bleachers at games, school carpark, etc.

    In some senses, i'm glad that adults can see what terrible things take place amongst peer groups, but i'm unbelievably frustrated by how most of those adults emphasize the CYBER rather than the BULLYING. It's as if the internet is the cause of the bullying. The internet does not cause bullying, but it does MIRROR and MAGNIFY bullying.

  2. Hi Liz,

    We're in perfect agreement about bullying. What is new is only that it's in the public eye. I wonder, however, if we have more adults who otherwise would have left such behavior on the playground when they grew up engaging in it than before simply because the anonymity of the Internet sometimes provides an outlet? At least, that's what I see. Adults acting in ways you can't possibly imagine. I went through something very painful and it was dragged out in the public arena and turned into a sideshow by two "cyberbullies" a few years ago. I kept trying to picture these women acting like that in real life, and I couldn't. I have also received comments on occasion of the calibre that I can't imagine someone would make in person.

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