Thursday, October 29, 2009

Discuss 5

'Egalitarianism is possible only in small social systems. Once a medium gets past a certain size, fame is a forced move.'
Clay Shirky

18 comments:

  1. This I think is the most interesting meditation yet. Having certain anarchistic tendencies I am inclined to be rather sympathetic to this one.

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  2. Is this from Here Comes Everybody? I haven't read this one, yet, but a brief essay from Shirky suggests that the way power laws work on internet developments means that those who do well become almost unreasonably well known while everyone else - which really is almost everyone else - trundles along below the radar.

    I'm with Chris, in that this sounds an interesting idea from a friendly mind, whereas the other discussion points have had a Cyborg-like feel. If you want to do digital philosophy and say that the universe is a giant information-processing machine, you really have to make the case. Just stating it isn't compelling enough to catch people's attention, I suspect.

    I wonder whether power laws also operate on human ideas about the universe, with digital philosophy forever consigned to the thin end of the tail.

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  3. What I found interesting about the Shirky piece Mark linked to is that the blogging power curve seems to have broken up as soon as it was established.

    Blogging has differentiated itself into such distinct subsets with such distinct raisons d'etre that these subsets can't really be said to all meaningfully occupy a curve drawn up on a single criterion, i.e. traffic.

    So whilst scale works against egalitarianism, on the one hand, it's also producing the sort of fragmentation that creates conditions in which it can flourish again.

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  4. And yet angling is Britain's most popular sport (here's why) and there are no famous anglers.

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  5. yup pretty much nails it. Will raison has a few million fans.

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  6. From Russell Davies' blog, here's how the quote continues:

    Egalitarianism is possible only in small social systems. Once a medium gets past a certain size fame is a forced move. Highly trafficked weblogs like Boing Boing often disable the ability for users to comment on stories, because they can't give the resulting conversation enough attention to keep it from descending into mudslinging. Early reports of the death of traditional media portrayed the Web as a kind of anti-TV, two-way where TV is one-way, interactive where TV is passive and (implicity) good where TV is bad. Now we know that the Web is not perfect antidote to the problems of mass media, because some of those problems are human and not amenable to technological fixes.

    I love American Idol. And when the show comes on, I'd like to join in the discussions at the American Idol web site. Soon in, these idiot moderators coming around, deleting posts, and telling people what they can and cannot say. It's very corporate. I get disgusted at the politics and I leave. But people stay, enough so that the AI people (American Idol people, that is) can think they are running a fabulous forum.

    Some of you know that I am the managing editor of the InterBoard Poetry Community. Over 20 of the finest poetry forums on the web belong. Some that don't, prefer not to be aligned in any way, to keep it closed. Anyway, last year, I scoured the web for more quality forums. Along with the other directors of IBPC, we made a way to invite certain forums that we decided could compete in the monthly contest, which Bryan has judged, by the way. In the IBPC's 10 years, such forum-inviting was never done before. The method was to post the invitation into the forum. The explanation was detailed, links supplied and so forth. It was explained that moderators from around the web at the best poetry forums you could find would be watching and anticipating questions. In other words, representatives from IBPC forums would be clicking in.

    At a rather large forum, posting such an invitation broke their rules. As I recall, one was spamming, and another was linking. Or maybe for them, linking was spamming.

    I end up getting treated like I had never signed onto a forum before. There were glimmers of realization from a couple of the moderators there that they were being asked to join a fine, known, and legitimate group in a legitimate way. But for the most part, these fools could not handle that there is an outside world savvy to most everything they were doing. The final part of this gauntlet of abuse that I was receiving, was that my messages would be passed onto the owner of the forum, and this was stated in such a way that she was considered a virtual goddess. Before I got banned from the site, for being pointed and clear at each objection, I let them know that they were not welcome, that any forum that would treat a poet the way I was being treated was not welcome into the IBPC. This meant nothing to them, as they were entrenched in groupthink.

    And there's the issue. We on the web do not know how to handle the next level beyond the group of friends who share a forum. Too often, there is no room for anything but some socially sick status quo that necessarily leads to abuse of forum users.

    Some of the various problems with online forums are addressed in Terreson's article at Clattery MacHinery on Poetry: The Pee in the Pool of On Line Poetry. That thread began last April, a year and a half ago. It has 1,458 comments as I write. This month, for the first time, I found myself having to delete posts from a group of hijackers. Terreson is now working on another article. The ultimate idea is to get some knowledge spread on the best way to go about all this.

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  7. Wow, catching up with the last three threads, likely to gush. The Cheryl Cole interaction with Brit is the funniest thing I've read on the web for a while, thanks. The point about making oneself a stalkee is scarily true, in a lot of our experience no doubt. Such shared memories and resulting fearfulness give rise I think to a lot of the negative traits in 'online communities' that Rus is talking about. Cyber paradise it ain't - but this revitalised blog ... this is good.

    Shirky said of Tim Berners-Lee's efforts in 1996:

    HTTP and HTML are the Whoopee Cushion and Joy Buzzer of Internet protocols, only comprehensible as elaborate practical jokes. For anyone who has tried to accomplish anything serious on the Web, it's pretty obvious that of the various implementations of a worldwide hypertext protocol, we have the worst one possible. Except, of course, for all the others

    Tim would accept that HTML was a kludge he expected to die out soon after its creation. But the criticism of http is all wrong, to my mind. Which is to suggest that Shirky himself is a mixed bag. That became more important to me when he commented so influentially on the Iran-Twitter situation in June. On balance, given time (and gross suffering of some inside the country no doubt), I still think we may see that he and the other optimists had a point. The Iranian people did perhaps turn a corner.

    But I don't think we know much about the sociology of what the web is becoming every day. I think our ignorance is the forced move, if I had to commit on the meditation itself.

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