‘Can the Internet provide a deliberative space for our new politics?’

That’s the rather wordy title of a seminar I’m running tomorrow night at the Institute of Irish Studies at Queens, along with my colleague (and distinguished blogger) Ciarán O’Kelly from the School of Law.
Some of things I hope to cover:

– can online communication ever be more than a news/gossip space?

– the difference between the ‘social networking’ approach and the ‘hyper democracy’ of online petitions

– the centrality of democratic institutions, and whether online media underwrites or detracts from their legitimacy?

– to what extent can online technologies allow public representatives engage with journalists; policy makers; party activists; and the general voting public?

Also given that in tiny polity like Northern Ireland there are highly limited resources available to develop initiatives that can work cogently on both cross border and cross channel bases, I’ll also be asking (if we get time) whether Internet based technologies can be used to develop effective local policies?

If that hasn’t put you off and you’d to come along, we’ll be at the Institute of Irish Studies, Seminar Room 1, First Floor, 53-67 University Road. Kick off is at 4.00pm.

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  • Outsider

    Isnt the real problem of online blogging the cloak of anominity that we are all afforded. As you yourself have said Mick some of us say things on these blogs that would start an arguement in real life therefore our views online have to be treated with scepticism.

  • dewi

    Sounds fascinating.Depending on logistical issues I might try and make it.

  • Frank Sinistra

    What time does it run to? Might be interested in ‘to what extent can online technologies allow public representatives engage with journalists; policy makers; party activists; and the general voting public?’ but have to put bread on the table first.

  • ulsterfan

    Outsider

    In a perfectly normal society contributors would not seek anonymity. Why are we so different?
    Is it because of our violent recent past where people may be afraid to express a view and more importantly be publicly identified with it.
    This fear is I think small and will decrease.
    Then we will be free to say what we like within the confines of good taste and the law.

  • joeCanuck

    Strange Frank. There’s no mention of a discussion about anonymity and use of sock puppets.

  • Mick Fealty

    I think the point about annonymity stands regardless of whatever state your society is in. Bryan Appleyard recently made the point that the concept of intellectual property is what has driven the rise in knowledge in the west since the Renaissance. But that essentially, it relies on being able to clearly identify individual mental labours, and allow them to reap the benefits of them.

    Anonymous folk have (albeit imperfect) ‘protections from’, but they also give up their ‘rights to’. Thus Damien Mulley’s famous strapline ‘Invisible people have invisible rights’. It also means they have much less to gain from engaging fully in a public discourse.

    What makes some of the new social networking tools like Facebook so interesting is that people deal with each other through relatively stable identities and have networks of ‘kinship’ and ‘trust’ to work through.

  • Outsider

    In a perfectly normal society contributors would not seek anonymity. Why are we so different?
    Is it because of our violent recent past where people may be afraid to express a view and more importantly be publicly identified with it.
    This fear is I think small and will decrease.
    Then we will be free to say what we like within the confines of good taste and the law.

    Ulsterfan

    I know what you are saying but are we really any different to bloggers in England or American who rarely use their own names.

  • joeCanuck

    I can understand why people may be reluctant to use their real names. But I think they should consistently use whatever “false” name they pick. Use of sock puppets within a thread pisses me off a lot.

    I’ve been using my real name and email on this site for years and I’ve only ever got 2 uninvited emails, both of them positive.

  • Mick Hall

    I’m beginning to feel on news type sites this use of anominity is one of the things that is holding us back from developing further. Could it be that anominity has become part of the culture of the WWW and for no good reason.
    If someone is at work and posting I can understand the secrecy but it must lessen the value of what one says if one posts anon.

    It sounds a very interesting work shop Mick, in my experience it is the politicians who are lagging behind here, not for any ignoble reasons but because they are on such a ridiculous treadmill rushing to this often pointless meeting to the next, giving them little time to surf the web and get a handle on it.

    So frt all we get from them is some pretty rough party web sites and public announcement. What you rarely get is a politician using the internet to argue their corner. Imagine the difference it would have made if Adams or some other senior Shinner had done this over policing etc with those of us who were their critics. There would have been an engagement, minds may have met on some elements of the platform, instead nothing and never were the two twines to meet.

  • Nevin

    “the centrality of democratic institutions, and whether online media underwrites or detracts from their legitimacy?”

    Mick, here’s an example of an interaction, one that also involves others forms of communication such as the humble telephone and personal encounters; IMO face-to-face is far more stimulating than Facebook.

    4pm looks like an early night. Did you forget to reset your clock? Hope yous have a wonderful time.

  • Can someone explain to me why Facebook is considered any different to other social networking sites such as Bebo or Myspace, that is apart from the older age of its users. My prediction is that it is a fad which will be replaced with something else similar. Friends Reunited peaked and most people moved on elsewhere, same with Bebo and Myspace. Why should Facebook be any different?

  • dewi

    Think Facebook already past it with all those add ins. Workmates just keep chucking metaphorical sheep at each other. Bizarre.Youtube the real revolution IMHO.

  • Mick Fealty

    Nev, one of the best aspects of Facebook is that it facilitates face to face communication. Here’s an example.

  • Dev

    Can someone explain to me why Facebook is considered any different to other social networking sites such as Bebo or Myspace, that is apart from the older age of its users. My prediction is that it is a fad which will be replaced with something else similar. Friends Reunited peaked and most people moved on elsewhere, same with Bebo and Myspace. Why should Facebook be any different?

    Posted by Chekov on Oct 29, 2007 @ 12:52 PM

    Not sure about that, Facebook seems to be more popular with older types because it looks more uniform and clean as you cannot personalise your background. Also I get the impression it’s a bit more secure in terms of randomers not being able to look at your stuff.

  • runciter

    Bryan Appleyard recently made the point that the concept of intellectual property is what has driven the rise in knowledge in the west since the Renaissance.

    This is a very grand and controversial claim. A few points:

    – The popular concept of so-called “intellectual property” is quite recent. According to Wikipedia: “It was very uncommon until the 1967 establishment of the World Intellectual Property Organization, which actively tried to promote the term. Still, it was rarely used without scare quotes until about the time of the passage of the Bayh-Dole Act in 1980.

    – Many influential thinkers, including Richard Stallman, would argue that the concept of IP has been a major obstacle to the ‘rise in knowledge’.

    – Scientific progress (for example) relies on the free flow of information. The artifical monopolies created by IP laws are at best a necessary evil – hence the Open Access movement.

    – Perhaps the most important contribution to the ‘rise of knowledge’ in the modern era is the internet – which depends heavily on Free Software and Free Culture – not on the concept of IP.

  • Garibaldy

    On the anonymity thing. People say things here that might inhibit their personal or professional relationsips, or might stifle their career. For example, civil servants might not want to reveal their identities. Or people might be disucssing people they know, etc. Without the anonymous thing, I’m sure many fewer of us would post for these reasons rather than out of fear in the same way as it might have been had such a forum existed c.1992.

  • Nevin

    Thanks, Mick. Is RSA Networks the new Masonic Order? 😉

  • Rubicon

    I’ve just finished listening to an item on Talkback discussing the proposed march around Donegal Pass – the same issue that was posted on Slugger over the weekend (BNP & Anna Lo) but then removed. Contributors to Talkback were both named and anonymous (in as far as only their first name was used).

    The discussion included assertions that were later shown to be incorrect; e.g., the parade being an annual event. Dunseith of course ensures defamatory statements are avoided but even here he has at times to resort to stating “well we can’t stand over that”. All fair enough.

    In relation to your seminar topics; “- can online communication ever be more than a news/gossip space?” and “whether Internet based technologies can be used to develop effective local policies?” I’d be interested to know whether traditional media still retain a significant leading edge – even when it comes to discussing a sensitive local issue. E.g., Talkback broadcasts live and engages the public and public representatives’ views on an issue that Slugger has had to remove.

  • Mick Fealty

    runciter:

    I misquoted Appleyard. This is what I had been thinking of:

    Psychologists have long been aware that the more people are distanced from each other, the easier they find it to do them harm. This degrades bloggery. But, more important, it also threatens all forms of authority. All western – not just scientific – wisdom is based on identity. Advocates and their critics can be identified and their ideas formally tested. This is nothing to do with the statistics of crowds, and everything to do with the authority of the person. Take that away and truth and judgment become fictions.

  • Mick Fealty

    Rubicon,

    I took it off because apparently you confused the surnames of two people who were in the news at the same time, but were not the same. What that points to is the loss of a thread due to shortage of time resources. MSM pays wages, Slugger can’t; yet at least.

  • Nevin

    “Item: MSM reveals to bloggers how to blog themselves rich, opening up new resources for the blog revolution!”

  • Sean

    As for Annonymity

    some of us don’t use our whole names because it makes a different in opinions

    Sean is my real given name and sounds nice and Irish

    My last name is decidedly not Irish so I specifically chose not to use it so it couldnt be used against me.

    So can annonymity or partial annonymity be situationally effective?

  • “Sean is my real given name and sounds nice and Irish

    My last name is decidedly not Irish so I specifically chose not to use it so it couldnt be used against me.”

    Oh dear Lord! I do believe you’ve just made yourself the ball! Lol.

  • Billy Pilgrim5@hotmail.com

    Re. anonymity, I think it has a valuable role online.

    I have often posted things here that I’d baulk at saying in person. It’s that thing Heaney talked about: “Whatever you say, say nothing.” Here in NI it’s almost a mark of middle-class sophistication to not have any opinions on anything.

    “oh, I’m not interested in politics,” is what everyone on the dinner party circuit always says, and usually where you get nayce, respectable Catholics and Protestants mixing socially, they’re falling over each other to declare that they have no time for politics and damned little for religion either.

    But of course, they’re liars. (I say “they” but I’ve been guilty of it myself.) People here DO have hugely entrenched political allegiances and sites like this provide a platform where the real issues are fought out – debates that you’d NEVER hear in real life, as people are too afraid, too nervous or simply too polite to say some of the things they’d say here.

    This blog has been an education for me, these last few years, and I wouldn’t have been able to have had many of the more enlightening tussles I’ve had, without the shield of plausible deniability that anonymity provides. I’m able to throw things out there with much greater freedom – it’s ok now that I can think back to certain arguments I’ve made in the past which I would no longer happily stand over.

    Though I have always used the same name, so that Billy Pilgrim is my consistent alter ego, rather than chopping and changing. Long-term bloggers here like (for example) Willowfield, IJP, Comrade Stalin, George, Darth Rumsfeld etc will know Billy Pilgrim well, as I know them well. I don’t need to know what their real names are. Their alter egos are real online presences, and that’s real enough.

    Sock puppeteers, on the other hand, should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves. They are pathetic weasels. They are the criminal class, the lumpenproletariat, of blogging society.

  • missfitz

    So, when I turn up tomorrow, does my namme badge say Miss Fitz, or my real name? And how will I know who else is who?

    Actually, when I met some of the bloggers off the site before it was really weird, cos you never quite knew what to call them!!

  • runciter

    Thanks for the clarification Mick.

    Regarding what Appleyard says…

    I would say that ‘authority’ allows us to argue more efficiently, in so far as it allows us to make basic assumptions in a reliable fashion.

    However, it is clearly not necessary to know the source of an idea in order to test it. Indeed, the idea that truth rests on authority – rather than on testable theories – seems extraordinary.

    Needless to say, even an anonymous contributor can propose a testable theory.

  • Sean

    Chekov
    Ive dished it out plenty But I can take it as well!! So as long as I get to play the ball they are welcome to take their shots……but I don’t think Mick wants his site used that way

    LOL ive never gone whingeing to a moderator yet about the way I have been treated here or anywhere. Made a few do it on me though lol

  • Mick Hall

    Billy P
    You make some valid points.

    All the best.

  • A.N.Other

    Actually, I belive that this is N.ireland’s fav social networking site;

    http://www.hatebook.org/

  • FWIW I think that there are many people in political parties and so on – I know a few – who like to use anonymity in order to push the envelope a bit. I think that is entirely natural and understandable, whether in Northern Ireland or elsewhere. And then there is also the point that when one starts out posting with an opinion it can seem a bit solipsistic to use ones own name, and a username seems less direct, less pushy as it were.

  • dewi

    Roughly what time will it finish anyone ?
    P.S. On bus to Dublin a pile of London goths on the way to Tara…..Hmmm

  • Dewi

    4-6….got it from Facebook…thanks Mick !

  • Turgon

    I would dearly like to go to the meeting tomorrow but cannot.

    I find the comments on anonymity very interesting and I agree with Garibaldy and Billy Pilgrim and Miss Fitz on the “To blog or not to blog” thread.

    I prefer not to use my own name as I fear that publicly holding views of a prodiban nature would result in me being seen at work as a terrorist supporter, bigot or just mad.

    In reality when you have been on this site for a while you know a bit about the views of the other commentors and, with a number of exceptions; whilst I often disagree with them I feel I know (usually respect and often like) them too well to launch into vitriol. I hope those I like and respect will forgive me when I fail in these not especially high or demanding standards.

    There is also the simple fact that if I started to use my own name no one would know who I was on this site, whereas when I use the name Turgon most know roughly what they are going to get. I have also promised Elenwe that I will not allow myself to be identified but that is a different matter.

  • dewi

    Turgon – I hope the encryption software works ok – if not we’ll revert to code A.
    In Dublin working on presidential campaign – “Operation Oiling the Wheels”
    Of the 20 TDs for nomination I reckon we got 11 secure – your promise to move the Dail to Cork went down a treat.
    Need soom help in Mayo however – any ideas ?
    P.S. Totally confidential – this message will self destruct in ten seconds…

  • Turgon

    Dewi,
    In all seriousness I always assumed that it would be quite easy to work out where someone posted from and as such who they are. Does each computer not up load some sort of tag when you add information to a page such as this? Or is my very limited computer understanding total nonsense?

    Having emailed Mick from the same computer I have posted from, I just assumed he could work out who I was. I also assumed he would not care and had much better things to do with his time.

  • dewi

    Turgon – will u please forget the irrelevant stuff and start to focus on your campaign ? It’s not going to be a walkover you know…

  • Turgon

    Dewi,
    No I know, I expect it to be a march over.

  • Harry Flashman

    There’s a world of difference between anonymity and pseudonyminty which is what is usually the case here. If all the posters were anonymous then the discussion would simply descend into a jumble of meaningless statements suspended without context.

    However where we have the situation of pseudonyms we can very quickly understand with whom we should be discussing points and over time we get to establish a “mind’s eye” charachterisation of the person we debate with; his/her opinions, lifestyle, age, religion, location etc without actually having to know that person’s exact identity and this makes for a freer more relaxed debate.

    I do salute the contributors who have the balls to apend their full names to their posts. Unfortunately given my family and personal circumstances I cannot be one of those posters (sorry to disappoint anyone who thought I actually was Captain Harry Paget Flashman VC, late of the 11th Light Dragoons).

  • dewi

    Nah Harry we know you are really Rudyard Kipling….

  • Mick Hall

    “(sorry to disappoint anyone who thought I actually was Captain Harry Paget Flashman VC, late of the 11th Light Dragoons).”

    Harry
    How could anyone have mistaken such a modest, retiring, liberal minded fellow such as you for that bounder Harry Paget Flashman VC late of the 11th Light Dragoons. Impossible.

  • Nevin

    Harry, do you envy the ‘real’ Harry (jpg image)?

  • dewi

    Excellent Mick and great to see youth engaging with a sad old geek like yourself……and that was Malachi O Doherty at the back you know…Lol.
    Seriously reading notes on train and will try and summarise but first observation is very generic:
    Product innovation is sometimes inspired, sometimes fashionable however product development is where the market – ie Capital and associated legal framwork gets involved – beauty of that is that no one knows how things are going to pan out. There are a numbers of relationships involved where economic utility transfer occurs. Source data provider / author to Slugger. Slugger to consumer, consumer to Slugger, commentor to Slugger and commenter to commenter – indeed tha last example – for me these days its the funny things here I’d pay for.
    It will be interesting to see how all that pans out.

    Thanks again – fascinating.

  • Sorry for having to leave early – typed up a few reflections on an interesting hour and a bit. Will update it with a photo once Blogger starts behaving! And thanks for letting us know about the seminar.

  • Mick Fealty

    Thanks guys. Glad you could come. Sorry not to get to meet. I hope to get a chance to do my own write up. I enjoyed it.

  • Mick – I really enjoyed yesterdays seminar, though at the start I was worried it was turning into a pissing contest between middle aged male academics! Pitty it was cut short. I really wanted to pursue with you whether you felt the blogsphere and other eCitizen interventions can make more of an impact here than in places with more settled political institutions and classes.

    I suppose I feel that all this stuff is just a tool, and can be used for good or ill – the real challenge is to build the new political commons that breaks down the barriers between the poltical class and ‘civil society’.

    One other thing that occured to me (reinforced this morning by the announcement of an ‘over 50’s Facebook’), was that the internet may reinforce generational schisms rather than helping us to overcome them. Certainly the (important) emphasis on child protection has the side-effect of making inter-generational debate on line more difficult!

    Thanks for a stimulating afternoon, and it was even better to realise we’d apparently hijacked some regular lecture slot – that’s one way to improve higer ed!

  • Alastair Baxter

    Paul Smyth ‘Pitty it was cut short.’

    I could not agree more, a very interesting event – what about a Part 2 Mick?

  • Mick Hall

    On face-book, whilst I have signed up it is a complete mystery to me as I cannot see its worth, has anyone got a link which explains its worth in a pretty simply way.

  • Cadiz

    “Friends Reunited peaked and most people moved on elsewhere, same with Bebo and Myspace. Why should Facebook be any different? ”

    Most friends didn’t want to be re-united.

  • Dewi

    Not sure it has any worth Mick – my juvenile work mates just use it to chuck metaphorical stuff at themselves – strange…..

  • Alastair Baxter

    Mick Hall ‘anyone got a link’

    If you’re looking for the latest news on Myspace, Facebook, Beebo, Xanga, and the rest of the players in the social-networking space, Mashable looks interesting. http://www.mashable.com