Saturday, February 07, 2009

Empathy Online

Jemimus forwarded me this newsletter he got from a guy named Jason Calacanis entitled "We Live in Public (and the end of empathy)"

From the body of the text which was quite substantive, he talked about the many accounts in which this emerging web 2.0 culture was breeding a pervasive attitude which could be almost be categorized as de-humanizing. At the heart of his argument was that notion of anonymity being a major factor.

Follows is my Bindpoint convo with Jemimus regarding the ideas of anonymity and content which fosters this behavior. We mostly agreed on the point but from two different perspectives..mine from the content provider, his from the content receivers

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[Alachia] so Jemimus, do you believe as Jason does that anonymity creates these sub-human environments online?
[Jemimus] Alachia, yes I do
[Alachia] I think he's right to an extent of the community that never really belonged online in the first place...and I don't mean that in a sense of "get off my turf"
[Alachia] but rather referring to those who never got the vision of the online world..and instead seeked to apply the rules of the RL to the meta once they were online and then exploit it
[Jemimus] I dont know about that. I think he is talking about 2 different things. The first is the dehumanising that people do through lack of the other "social" contexts.. the kind of stuff you DO have when you are face to face. The other issue is he discusses is the corruption that occurs when people use other people online as a means to an end
[Alachia] aka. quasi-celeb bloggers, youtube 2secs of fame for doing the same shit that would have gotten a few laughs at school, and attention whores who can behind pseudo names and push the limitations of our tolerance
[Alachia] well he attributes most of the dehumanising through the filter of anonymity
[Alachia] that people behave in the way they do on MULTIPLE accounts simply because they can and because they're not bound to their behavior
[Alachia] sort of like Lord of the Flies via Meta
[Jemimus] well there is a difference with the youtube guys.. they at least are putting themselves out there. They are, in fact, contributing (the merit is a seperate discussion) .. what the main problem here is, is the people who -comment- on those, and all videos on youtube, and without any shame tear people apart
[Alachia] but where do these comments arise? because of the nature of the videos I believe.
[Alachia] you have extremely personal videos online now...things you'd only want to share with people you know in eleven year old girls dancing and singing...or a family of friends acting up and playing rockband
[Alachia] these are personal moments
[Alachia] they are not objective forms of entertainment for the public because they are real.. and yet they are presented as something far less personal once they arrive on youtube
[Alachia] it's no longer two little girls dancing and playing.
[Jemimus] I think the lord of the flies analogy works only on 1 level: The fact that people in crowds tend to loose sense of personal responsibility.. this is certainly true online to an extent, but I think there is more going on there. There are other factors that are causing the "fucktards", as John Gabriel would put it
[Alachia] it's no longer a family just having a good friday night together
[Alachia] it's now presented as a form of entertainment.. just as we'd have no issues balking at a stupid tv series or the latest character annoyance...
[Alachia] we treat it as such
[Jemimus] I am not so sure the content is an important factor. Too often i have seen the exact same behaviour on forums, where a perfectly intelligent discussion will degenerate in the same way
[Alachia] I see it far less in professional context or even art related than I do personal exhibition
[Alachia] I mean people make some bizzare comments regarding politics or news or idealogy. but most comments don't turn personally biting unless they're trying to tear someone down personally. that's when I've seen it at its worst
[Alachia] the part that scared me the most about his analysis was the conclusion that if we can't change the culture of the ongoing web2.0 world, that it will eventually be abandoned for the real world.
[Alachia] and that all the vision and hope of the meta being the colossal forum for a new level of human progression.
[Alachia] will be lost because people can't retain their humanity online.
[Jemimus] The kind of comments you see on youtube or forums, reminds me a lot of how you see teenagers behave in groups. They are roudy, the humor is extremely base and simple, the behaviour is childish, based on trying to mutually impress and going down quickly to a very low common demoninator. Adolescents behave like this in public, because during those years they loose the ability to interpret social queues.. they "loose" all shame and start to act out , their internal dialog is unfiltered. Aspergers and Autism are similar in nature. This is what Jason was referring to. Remove the social queus, and you end up with people who appear unable to behave socially. They are missing the normal queues that would filter their behaviour: shame, embarressement no longer come into it.
[Alachia] these types of behaviors are also found in adults that run in the same crowd. They take no issue in tearing other down simply because they have the herd backing them. and they only exist in their own small culture so everything they believe, seems like an absolute to them.
[Alachia] the real question is how do you stop it? what can you do to bring things out of the dark ages? into web transparency?
[Alachia] brb. conf call
[Jemimus] Well I think Jason has a point about the very concept of annonimity. Take that out of the picture, and you force people to take some messure of social responsibilty again.
[Morganefay] true, but then you are saddled with the privacy issues
[Jemimus] exactly
[Jemimus] I could imagine some strategies of dealing with it... say you wanted to do a blog, you could keep the commenters to a very select group, of people that you individually vet , perhaps even requiring some personal information, or a small video interview, to allow them to register to comment.
[Jemimus] Jason mentioned these south korean social networks requiring social security numbers to register. This is very strong, because it binds that social identity to a real-life, verifiable and trusted identity
[Morganefay] i have a weird q for are very much about privacy, and yet you blog...why?
[Morganefay] Jem--how do you make sure those numbers are not being exploited?
[Jemimus] I dont think they are made public
[Morganefay] but by that company i mean
[Jemimus] they are known to the site owners... makes banning more effective, or in extreme cases tracing, in the case of criminal behaviour..
[Morganefay] ah
[Jemimus] I think though, its the IDEA of it that is probably the most effective. Just -knowing- that your online identity is in some way connected to your rl identity may keep some of those unsocial behaviours in check

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