Saturday, August 16, 2014

More One Hand, Other Hand: Recent Commentary on the Promise and Peril of Online Interaction at Social Networking Sites (or, The Ferguson We All Inhabit)

Two more one hand, other hand contrasting statements this morning culled from articles I've read online recently:

At Religion Dispatches, a young man who will enroll in a graduate program in political science at Illinois State University this fall — Arafat Kabir — notes that for him as a Muslim Bangladeshi, "social media has transported me across the world and enables me to engage people who were totally inaccessible to my parents when they were my age." Kabir writes,

The miracle of social media is that it permits us to hear, and even see, so many different viewpoints and facts. We are referred to newspapers, magazines, photos, government documents, satellite images, and real-time interviews. We have access today that even world leaders did not have only a few years ago—it is as if we are within the chambers of power.

That's one hand of social media and the internet. Then there's this other hand: as Farhad Manjoo notes for the New York Times, according to various scholars examining online communication, including Humboldt State professor Whitney Phillips, author of the forthcoming This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things, "The Internet may be losing the war against trolls." As Manjoo points out, Robin Williams's daughter Zelda Williams was chased off Twitter this week by trolls who posted doctored images of her father's body, with notes stating that she had done this to her father.

Trolling goes hand in hand with burgeoning communication — with burgeoning unfettered social interaction — online, according to the scholars cited by Manjoo. If the kind of free global communication to which Arafat Kabir points is the light of the internet, then trolls are its shadow. They lurk everywhere in darkness, looking for any opportunity to throw their acids in the faces of unsuspecting internet users.

Follow any Twitter thread yesterday discussing the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and the disclosure of the name of the policeman who shot him, Darren Wilson, and you'll wade through poison aplenty. You'll encounter abounding lies designed to divert people from the truth and torpedo meaningful conversations about serious issues including racism and police brutality.

You'll see light. And you'll also see darkness trying to grasp the light and quickly snuff it out.

And I suppose that whether the darkness — which is always there, which is omnipresent in human interactions — is permitted to overcome the light depends, in the final analysis, on us. The question before us always is what we intend to do about these dynamics.

It's what we intend to do about the Ferguson of which we're all a part, in one way or another.

According to many online sources, including this article by Mike Myatt at Forbes, the graphic is from DN Nation. I have been able to find a more specific attribution of the original source.

No comments: