en3177 Chapter 3

While reading chapter 3 of Rettberg’s Blogging, the line that stuck out the most to me was the Clay Shirky quote:

“A new social system starts, and seems delightfully free of the elitism and cliquishness of the existing system. Then, as the new system grows, problems of scale set in. Not everyone can participate in every conversation. Not everyone gets to be heard. Some core group seems more connected than the rest of us, and so on” (Shirky, 2003).

It reminded me of what Rousseau wrote in the The Social Contract, which was that man inevitably moved from a state of nature into a social contract.  Rousseau claimed that the rich and powerful got that way by convincing the underclass to yield to their authority. The solution to this system, Rousseau offers, is for the people to give up their rights, not to a king or elected official, but to the community. The community then makes decisions as a group to protect the welfare of all.

While it may seem wildly idealistic this shift may have already began on a small scale when it comes to the organization of the internet. However, as people connected and shared on a previously unimaginable scale, the gatekeepers of the old ideology, the elected officials, scrambled to maintain control over the flow of information in this new system.

It became abundantly clear that the US government sought this control in 2011 and 2012 with the introduction of SOPA and PIPA into Congress.  Speaking of SOPA and PIPA, here is video of Clay Shirky explaining why they’re awful pieces of legislation. I’m starting to dig this guy.

More recently the government’s quest for data control was exposed by the revelation that the NSA (through the GCHQ) has tapped into fiber optic cables  that circle the globe and carry profound amounts of data every day.

In April of 2010, Kevin Kelly, a writer for Wired turned a Clay Shirky quote into a principle. The Shirky Principle, as it’s now known, states that: “Institutions will try to preserve the problem to which they are the solution”. I can’t think of a better way to put it than that.

en3177 Chapter One

Firstly, I’d like to sing Rettberg’s praises for including a brief history of the internet before launching into the history of blogging. It’s hard to get a good ideas of what something is if you don’t understand the medium through which it was created. That, and I don’t think nearly enough people know who Tim Berners-Lee is.

The assignment that most interested me was about how bloggers shape the conversations that they create (or stifle). On some blogs, controversial topics are considered off-limits, a phenomenon referred to in the text as “blogging for bliss”. On the other hand there are news aggregates and sensationalist media outlets that seem to subsist on controversy alone. To demonstrate the ways in which this moderation might be accomplished I sifted through blogs until I found a few decent examples.

The first is Chuck Wendig’s blog, terribleminds. Wendig is a novelist, screenwriter, and game designer. Though his harsh language might be considered controversial, it was how he used a followers comment that caught my eye. In this post he uses a followers comment to further the discussion on character development. Meanwhile, he also drums up traffic and followers for S. L. Huang, the one who made the original comment. This is significant because the two blogs are run as a showcase of an artists work, and commercial advances may be gained by this sort of mutualism.

Another example I found was Kevin Olenick’s blog, which is run as a sort of forum for controversial discussions. The blog’s title page explains Kevin as “a thoughtful guy starting conversations we should be having”. Instead of using the “blogging for bliss” formula mentioned in the text, Olenick’s blog suggests we should dive into that controversy head-on, and not heed societal pressures to sweep important issues under the rug. In this post, Olenick outlines a podcast about a bill that would force school administrators to offer assistance to students interested in forming a Gay-Straight Alliance. It’s clear that Olenick tries to keep the discussion balanced–He interviews an LGBTQ student and her parent, as well as a few people who raise concerns that the bill would violate their religious freedom. This is important because though the blog may be rife with controversy, there is still an attempt to make the discussion balanced and representative.

In conclusion, I enjoyed Chapter One, and I’m excited to see what else the text has to offer.