Bloody hell eh? Can’t make a joke and
get away with it these days what is the internet coming to?
Of course the truth is that there the
internet has always really been put together by three types of people,
just now the balance is moving. See, to my mind at least , there have
always been Contributors, Participants and Huh-what-nows.
To use an easy example look at
wikipedia, a few years ago there would have been a few Huh-what-nows
looking confused when you mentioned wikipedia, but now most people
know what it is – we now participate in it we have moved to be
Participants. Sticking with wikipedia a few years ago the average
user probably went looking for something found it and left, now some
of these people will be Contributors giving back to the site that they
have used for so long.
This is the way life works if I am
being grand about it. At age one you don’t know what a poem is, you
are a Huh-what-now of poetry. At age fourteen you know what a poem is,
you have read them you are a Participant. And then later you start
writing your own and you are a Contributor.
Where this becomes interesting in an
internet setting is how quickly we move into the Contributor category.
I have two blogs I regularly update, two I am trying to develop into
community projects, two I have killed for being rubbish, a flickr
account, a twitter account (well two but one is for the community
project) and a youtube account. Now I accept that I am probably an
extreme example but there are more people in the Contributor role than
there has ever been. And the reason for this is that the technical
barrier to entry is dropping.
Take my latest project, I toddled over
to wordpress and within an hour I had a blog with pages and links to
email and contribute and all that jazz. An hour. I know people who
were blogging before the word weblog was even coined, back then it
The thing that the low technical
barrier to entry doesn’t allow for is a developing of participation.
We really ought to be participants before we are Contributors but that
incubation is largely passed over.
You need to be a special kind of
person to go from say having never read a book to try and write one.
I read for eighteen years before I attempted to write a novel, I did
it but it is a bad novel, it would have been a lot worse without those
eighteen years of practice.
This is where our social
responsibility begins to come into play. We don’t practice enough as
we should do, we don’t spend enough time as Participants in this
digital age. Five years ago I read my first blog and soon after
started my own. I killed it because it stank. Three years of reading
other peoples’ blogs I started another and you know it didn’t so badly
and with time I found my voice and I got readers and they understood
my voice after awhile and it was all gravy because we were figure it
out together. I went from Participant to Contributor and in turn
picked up some Participants to my blog.
This nomenclature might be getting
cludgy but I think the deal is this. We have a responsibility,
socially, to get a feel for what is expected, what can and cannot be
said and then go ahead and say it. Equally when we are just
participating we have a responsibility to try and figure out and
understand what the contributor is saying.
We can’t just get on a public forum
and say anything, but equally we can’t be expected to limit what it is
that we have to say.
Both the speaker and listener need to
be active on the internet and that is the big social responsibility
because taking either a 140 character toot (yes toot) or a 14 minute
video on youtube or 1400 word magnum opus by itself without looking at
the person behind it, what else they have said is a dangerous
I am largely influenced by Merlin
Mann, a talented blogger whose Better essay is well worth reading. He also
Admit it: people privately
hope the photographs they post publicly say interesting things about
them — albeit in coquettish, sometimes angular ways. Flickr maps our
unfolding ideas about how the stuff we see might guide how others see
And I think that is a good way to
round this up. Blogging, vlogging, tooting, posting to flickr or
being a Contributor in anyway is really a way to help people
understand us a little bit better. We all just need to learn to get
Scott is a student, writer on the
internet and has a bit of a thing for doing clever things with words
and photos. He posts to
speedandsyncopation.wordrpress.com and toots at
twitter.com/scottgladstone . As evidenced by this
part in italics he doesn’t mind pimping himself.