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Debate: Internet Civility and Anonymity in Western Culture

In Digital Communications on June 5, 2012 at 12:48 pm

Wales, Keen and Sifry Debate Internet Civility, Anonymity

Partner: Miller Center of Public Affairs
Location: National Press Club | Washington, D.C.
Event Date: 05.18.10
Speakers: Andrew Keen, Farhad Manjoo, Micah Sifry, Paul Solman

I enjoyed Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia:

What I think that we need to recognize is that we have to work for social mechanisms that drive towards quality and thoughtfulness. And that we are still very much at the beginnings of that. We have some hints of it here and there […] Newspapers haven’t figured out how to engage their audiences in a way that is productive. Instead, we have comment boards that are useless angry people that are yelling at each other.

Andrew Keen, entrepreneur and writer, discusses:

  • The Issue of Anonymity, not the Internet
  • Western culture thinks: The Internet is a Right, not a responsibility
  • Jeff Jarvis: The Internet is the Next Society
  • Social contract theory
  • Central fact of social, cultural, and political life in the 21st century
  • Key responsibility in the West: reveal who you are to solve the problem

Micah Sifry, co-founder of Personal Democracy Forum, makes compelling arguments that suggest anonymity is a double-edged sword. There are circumstantial benefits to anonymity.

Closing Remarks
It’s most beneficial to push these three minds together, without losing form or becoming mush. They all make great arguments and marshal strong evidence to support their claims. We can’t forget they are on the same side: to promote digital and push this culture forward. If we combined all perspectives, [and were able to execute and pull it off] the Internet might be a utopia.

Imagine a culture that embraces social mechanisms to promote quality, thoughtfulness, and responsibility while still enabling the present nodes of communication, especially the freedom to post anonymously.

The nature of digital is a constant state of flux, which means it’s difficult to grasp exactly how to communicate. I like to call the places we communicate: joints, as a knee or elbow but much more flexible and durable. These joints allow us to interpret language and construct meaning. We’re all learning along the way. A little patience might help us, and go a long way.

The full video and story is featured at FORA.tv | Debate: The Internet and Democracy.

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