The uncomfortably sectarian ‘global village’ of the Internet…

According to Cass R Sunstein (thanks for the correct ‘exile’)one of the problems with internet politics is that it tends to atomise and draw people into informal social networks which then adopt much less moderate politics than they would if they were more directly engaged by mainstream democratic politics… Laurie Penny in the Samoza examines (amongst things) the importance of moderation in keeping a civil peace between those who profoundly disagree on their core political values:

It is a truth universally acknowledged by anyone who has spent time moderating blog comments that as well as being a brilliant place to share ideas and force the pace of social change, the blogosphere has a tendency to lure idiots, bigots and bullies from their hiding places.

Villages, global or otherwise, are tough places:

A measure of sectarianism is in the nature of the Internet. When the theorist Marshall McLuhan coined the term ‘Global Village’ to describe the coming communications revolution in the 1960s, he did not envision an international cyber-community characterised by bucolic tranquility. Anyone remotely charmed by the notion of a Global Village has probably not spent a great deal of time in villages, which, global or otherwise, involve a whole lot of gossip, backstabbing, isolationism and petty vendettas for every bastion of smalltown solidarity.

Indeed….

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  • exile

    Cass R. Sunstein

  • Hesse

    I am sure you would concur with this analysis Mick. Slugger, after all, has more than its fair share of Village Idiots!

  • Occasional Voter

    Stuart Sutherland discussed something similar in his book ‘Irrationality’ – group attitudes become more extreme than individuals and develop prejudices towards out-groups.

    I think this can be extrapolated to any grouping whether a social network site or a political party.

  • borderline

    I think he might me onto something.

    People who join political parties, particularly in the North, are more extreme than their communities.

    And those who comment on this site, myself included, are more extreme still.

    in my not-so-humble extreme opinion

  • aquifer

    So outwardly mad sectarian bigots don’t get into government, and they don’t get physically abused for slabbering on the internet. A very civil compromise.

  • davy c

    The anonymity of the internet is perfect for every bigot, blow-hard and empty vessel to spout their drivel, as they know they’d never get away with saying those things in normal conversation, and they’ll never get a rightly deserved slap in the bake for it. This has been the case since the dawning of the internet, and Slugger is a perfect example of it.

  • Brian Walker

    Mick, you’re not trying to say, ” does it remind you of anywhere” by any chance?

    “Anyone remotely charmed by the notion of a Global Village has probably not spent a great deal of time in villages, which, global or otherwise, involve a whole lot of gossip, backstabbing, isolationism and petty vendettas for every bastion of smalltown solidarity..”

  • Drumlins Rock

    Crumlin

  • It may be “universally acknowledged”, but it isn’t always true – the evidence points both ways.

    I haven’t done a meta-analysis of all the research, but I would point to the 20 years of Minnesota Online Democracy maintaining civility at all times, and the use of by young people at Bytes for Belfast in the 1990s to chat to people from different communities.

    How an on-line discussion moves (to extremes or towards consensus) is influenced by the same factors that shape face-to-face discussions, especially the skills of facilitators, and criteria for winning (as in the de Borda preferendum). I do know that there is more critical than uncritical thinking in on-line than face-to-face student discussions (see Newman et al, JASIS, 1997).

  • Brit

    “And those who comment on this site, myself included, are more extreme still”

    Well I’m just a boring run of the mill liberal social-democrat so dont include me in this extremist camp!

  • shane

    The advantages vastly outweigh any disadvantages.

    Thank God for the internet, at this stage I really don’t know how I managed to live for years without it.