Tuesday, August 19, 2008

hear ye hear ye

This article in the local paper, the Southern Illinoisan, shows a couple of things besides a dubious implication that the west side of Carbondale is falling into economic malaise. Being a west-sider, I was curious to read whatever they chose to imply, but, following the advice of the person who pointed out the article to me, I read the comments and discovered that:

-comments of these news articles are very widely-used venues for public discussion of issues, in this case apparently unrelated to the story at hand. In other words, at least two people got tired of fighting on a site where their comments were being edited out too quickly and moved over to this article, where they thought they could argue about the Peace Coalition, in the site of an article that was about the economics of the west side.

-the comments are being edited vigorously and constantly; there are fewer now than when I first looked, and the proof of the above may be entirely gone before you look at the link. Furthermore, my guess, by the look of it, is that they are more likely to be edited if somebody (anybody) objects to them; and that this (objection) has become a tool in various wars of words over the issues involved. Thus the page itself is not only a free speech forum (in a limited way) but also a battleground for control over what remains and is read on the site permanently. Editors are clearly not averse to removing enough comments so that what remains is no longer clear or coherent, or at least frequently has unexplained gaps; one cannot tell what someone is responding to or referring to, but perhaps that's because the referent has been removed, and now the entire comments section reads like a cut-and-paste random collection of incomprehensible but clearly antagonistic remarks.

-does this forum experience change the dialogue in a region, as the SI is really our own and only regional newspaper? Not sure, but I can assure you, it has a different look, a different tone, and a different vitality than the ink-and-newsprint newspaper itself.

-i do not see a whole lot of "pimp my blog" here- people are not commenting to get attention, or drum up business for their own site- which I know is something that some comment sections have and even encourage. Comments themselves have taken on their own character, their own culture, and are different in different places, particularly in heavily-read blogs, amongst bloggers themselves, or at least in comments sections where each signature leads to another blog.

It is encouraging that people are reading in their free time; using the web to discuss, argue, and negotiate; actively using writing informally yet strongly and purposefully, even if what one often sees is choppy, short, unclearly referenced (perhaps through no fault of the writer's)- if not relevant to the community, or to the argument at hand.

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