The Attic (a name which commemorates our first physical location) is, first and foremost, a site for the research students of the School of Museum Studies at the University of Leicester: a virtual community which aims to include all students, be they campus-based and full-time, or distance-learning and overseas. But we welcome contributions from students of museum studies - and allied subject areas - from outside the School and from around the world. Here you will find a lot of serious stuff, like exhibition and research seminar reviews, conference alerts and calls for papers, but there's also some 'fluff'; the things that inspire, distract and keep us going. After all, while we may be dead serious academic types, we're human too.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Is the end of the freedom to blog without boundaries in sight?

This is not museum-related but I think it has interesing repercussions for blogging as a process so I'll include it. Below is an article from the Guardian's 'Comment is Free' website detailing the recent calls for some kind of 'code of conduct' to be placed on blogging. This is largely in response to Kathy Sierra's tale of how she has been subject to humilating and downright scary verbal attacks and abuse through her blog, the most frightening being images sent to her showing her next to a noose.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/story/0,,2054180,00.html

In my experience the findings of this article are close to the reality. I used to belong to a couple of message boards based on interests other than PhD etc and I gave them all up because they were generally hijacked by people who wanted to spout racist, sexist and prejudicial comments at every opportunity. Then when the target would complain about said abuse they would claim it was all a joke and why didn't they have a sense of humour? There is no reasoning with such people, they had rehearsed all the possible retorts to anyone who objected to the way in which they tried to dominate 'conversations', well I say conversation but it was more a series of points inserted with belittlements and personal attacks for those who held opposing views. I got to know a German girl quite well and some of the attacks towards her... well the word Nazi was a common feature. They also called her ugly, as Kathy Sierra found the usual way to try and undermine a female (and males) is to attack her physical appearrance. It is not something which contributes to a secure and tolerant atmosphere in which you feel able to share your views with others.

This is not to say that I expect the web or the world of blogging to be a happy enlightened place where everyone is nice to each other and respects one another's opinion. That is not the 'real' world... but then neither is the real world I think one where someone would necessarily say such cruel and terrible remarks to your face. This is why however I am also in two minds about establishing a centralised code of conduct for the Internet. On the one hand, society is revealed in all its ugliness but you can quickly establish the type' of people you want to debate with. Perhaps we should be grateful that people can be more honest on the Net and reveal the comments that usually politeness or social conduct would prevent? Perhaps anonymity helps us to see the real person... However it also enables those with less than savoury agendas to peddle their views of the world and dominate discussions unfairly. It's like when you sit on the bus and the person next to you wants to tell you their views on immigration and how it was better in their day. A code of conduct would give you a tool to perhaps get people to consider what they are going to say. However I would not attribute the current aggression to be a lack of empathy and consideration for others, these people know full well what impact they are having.

Therefore I am undecided at the moment, after all like The Attic does, individual sites can filter comments it finds unacceptable and not publish anonymous comments. There is regulation for those who want it.

1 comment:

Amy said...

Yeah, while I don't want to assume the mantle of a rabid dictator, I'm not prepared to tolerate abuse directed at anyone contributing to the blog. But then again, I doubt we'd attract much of that sort of attention, but - then again - it only takes one nutcase, doesn't it? Lynn wrote about similar issues on her blog week before last (I think). http://museumblogthesis.blogspot.com/2007/03/pop.html

Her post links to Kathy Sierra's blog and her account of the abuse and death threats she's recently been subjected to (warning, it makes for very disturbing reading). It reminds one that the blogosphere isn't always the cosy, supportive, generous world we might imagine it to be. In that sense I guess it just reflects everyday experience in reality: a microcosm of contemporary society.