This article, “Anonymous trolls are as pathetic as the anonymous “sources” that contaminate the gutless journalism of the New York Times, BBC, and CNN,” popped up on my Facebook feed this morning. I read it and thought it might make for a good conversation starter over here. This is certainly not the article I would have written about decorum on the WWW. While I am with the author to an extent – yup, people are heinous and rude and hostile when they can hide behind avatars and pseudonyms – I’m not with him wholesale. I think, for one, that he oversells the uniqueness of internet discourse as a particularly vile form of human expression. I’m more of the mind that there’s a continuity between our digital selves and our material selves. What takes place online might be an amplification of the worst of what we are, but it isn’t something that just emerges when we retreat to the safety of a keyboard. People – individually and collectively – are fantastically hateful and racist and cruel to each other in real life. People – individually and collectively – are also fantastically creative and giving and funny and inspiring. This also gets played out online.
I also depart from the author in his his drawing a correlation between two forms of anonymity. Sometimes people remain anonymous to facilitate behaving like total jerkfaces. And then there’s the role of whistleblowers and subversives who, when journalism is done well, crack open powerful stories about the state of the world and begin processes of transformation.
What do you think? Is there something really different going on online? Or do you think that this is simply an amplification of things that are already at play in the material world? Also, what are your thoughts on the usage of anonymous sources in traditional media?
I was thinking this morning, as I sailed through Forest Hill on a perfect winter morning, about all things New Years Resolution. And all things Facebook. And all things about how much angst I have about Facebook. It’s a wonder I don’t fall off my bike more often. Then I was thinking about applying the rhetoric of reducing one’s carbon footprint, which certainly has currency, to one’s digital life as well. What if we reduced our digital footprint? What would that look like? What would that feel like?
This was prompted by two things: 1) I’m researching a paper on pedagogy and the digital divide and it’s come up in multiple places how the iGeneration or Digital Natives or whatever you wanna call kids these days aren’t fully appreciating that what goes online stays online . . . forever and ever amen. The content you flippantly generate as an angsty 16 year old (or angsty 30 year old) is the same content that HR departments will love to ferret out 10 years down the road. And 2) in the small uproar about Instagram I thought the best comment about it all was, “If you’re concerned about privacy, maybe don’t put everything you do on the internet?” Point well take.
What would you do to reduce or modify your digital footprint? Cut back on emails and pick up the phone more often? Self-impose guidelines for what you post on Facebook? Any other ideas? Do share!
Join WACC North America for a free webinar on Thursday, Jan. 10, 2013 from 11 AM to noon Eastern time. To register please click here.
Egyptian digital activist, blogger, and WACC member Kamal Sedra will lead a webinar about how social media has influenced—and is influencing—the Egyptian political landscape.
Based in Cairo, Mr. Sedra founded and manages DISC Development, an organization that works in the fields of Human Rights and Freedom of Expression, and provides technical support for other civil society actors. Mr. Sedra also serves as a Senior Technical Advisor for ICT4Peace Foundation, a Swiss NGO that supports global peace through Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs). He is a well-known digital activist, blogger, and digital media consultant, having served as a trainer with international NGOs in numerous countries on these topics. As an expert on digital activism, Mr. Sedra has presented at conferences around the world, including the Silicon Valley Human Rights Conference in San Francisco (2011), the Internet Governance Forum (2012), and many others.
In 2009 Mr. Sedra’s website www.nazaha-eg.net won the eDemocracy Forum and Politics Online prize as one of the top ten websites how changing the politics and world. To register for this timely and interesting webinar please click here.
WACC and the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) have launched a new resource to promote gender ethical journalism. The kit draws from the insights of media practitioners, educators and communication researchers from Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Europe, Latin America, North America and Pacific. It brings together practical guidelines to enhance women’s representation in media content and encourage dialogue within media structures and self-regulatory bodies together with civil society groups.
Please support the awesome work of WACC Global and IFJ. The Learning Resource Kit available in Arabic, English, French and Spanish may be downloaded free of charge at www.whomakesthenews.org and www.ifj.org.
If you’re reading this blog, you probably know someone who should be considered for these awards. The Centre for Communication and Social Change out of The University of Queensland (Australia) awards “specifically those that have demonstrated extraordinary commitment to using communication to transform and empower marginalised communities.” For more information on the awards and on the nominations process, please visit their website.
My most excellent pal and colleague Ali sent this along a few weeks ago (sorry, sorry, this blogger has some time management issues . . . ). But here it is! Check out this groovey website and this groovey article about some of the work that Journalists for Human Rights is up to. It’s a really eye-opening read about what can happen to media outlets during times of conflict and war, and about the necessity of strong media even in peace times. Check it out!