[iDC] The Ethics of Participation

keith at thememorybank.co.uk keith at thememorybank.co.uk
Sun Jan 7 15:06:56 EST 2007


My reading perhaps reflected my own experience as a list moderator more
than your own. I have taught in the States for ten years and I do
understand that politeness and the appearance of kindness count for more
there than in the kind of intellectual roughhouse I grew up in (Cambridge)
and currently inhabit (Paris). If what I wrote was likely to scare the
tender-hearted away, it was not my intention to do so. In fact, I take some
small pleasure in having contributed to what became a fascinating thread.
Conversation is what keeps me coming. I wouldn't say my contributions to
this list have been many. I often feel that the tone and style of exchanges
doesn't offer me a suitable point of entry, as in the excellent thread(s)
before this one. Maybe what it is at issue here is plain-speaking as
opposed to academic periphrasis. But I didn't expect to make that point
when I started out this short reply.


Original Message:
From: Trebor Scholz trebor at thing.net
Date: Sun, 07 Jan 2007 09:03:27 -0500
To: idc at bbs.thing.net
Subject: RE: [iDC] The Ethics of Participation

Hi Keith,

Thanks for your comments and many thoughtful contributions to this list.
It's good to be reminded if we go on for too long. Criticism is valuable.
But at times people roughen each other
up, not entirely in the name of dialectics or high standards. Other readers
start feeling intimidated and stop contributing simply because they do not
have time for the tough guys. Conflict
is desirable (and even crucial) as long as it is aimed at arguments. 

Keith Hart wrote:
"we should keep lists like this one going rather than sell out to the
forces of capital concentration."

Personally, I enjoy long texts on lists even if they are not professionally
safe, distilled and mulled over for months or years. That's the strength of
discourse networks: people don't have to
wait for two years until the book or print journal is out and the burning
issues are already history. I think it's hard to make assumptions about
what people do or do not like. I agree,
however, that long essays are not conducive to response writing. Short,
provocative posts are much more likely to trigger participation. And
reciprocity, especially for people who post for
the first time, encourages continued engagement.  

However, contrary to your reading, I don't have problems with periods of
silence on this or other lists. In fact, I think that a month of high
traffic followed by "time out" is rather a sign of a
maturing network. Traffic alone is not an indication of a lively group.
Fewer posts once in a while do not mean that subscribers don't read,
bookmark, or forward posts. There are many
forms of participation even if not all of them equally contribute to
communal value. 


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