scio10: Online Civility and its (Muppethugging) Discontents

Jan 17 2010 Published by under Conferences, online communities

Dr Free-ride, Sheril Kirshenbaum, and Isis the Scientist

SK – definition of civility at your site – if you want children to feel welcome, for example. You have to set the tone. Some topics seem more important to be civil about.

F-r -  politeness or is it being a decent human – in philosophical circles someone may rip your heart out and jump on it in perfectly polite language – so it’s not just being polite. It’s more like taking each other seriously, assuming good faith, considering others feelings. Hard to engage when you don’t feel welcome.*

Hard to engage when you don’t feel welcome – language ( profane, technical, religious), composition of the community, am I being dismissed out of hand.

But respect doesn’t eliminate disagreement or hurt. Fundamental disagreements may surface, speaking up about experience may make you feel worse. Sometimes modeling good behavior is tedious – respect your own limits and interests – sometimes you just have to sit out of some

I - @sshats aren’t useful :)

Call to civility has been used to suppress/repress minority groups.

She likes definition: personal attacks, rudeness, aggression or other behaviors aimed at disrupting a community’s goals that lead to unproductive stress disorder and conflicts.

q to the audience – what stands out to you as uncivil?

difference between using naughty words within discussion vs. making a personal attack

audience – they work in Congo and civility is used as a tool of white oppression

Chafee from Duke wrote a book about the civil rights movement and about how civility was used as a tool of oppression

q: how do you control – can you control civility on your site, and what effect does that have on the discussion on the blog. F-r says she moderates all of her comments and she also sets the tone – she doesn’t seem to get the really serious trolls. Need to show your presence

S-k can’t be online all the time and there’s been a problem with commenters fighting each other and legal language ensuing.

I has some self policing among her commenters. She will ban someone who threatens physical violence.

q: what about ignoring them?

a: silence sometimes becomes assent and if you leave something unaddressed, it will scare other commenters away

q: we’ve been talking about commenters, what about blogger civility to civility

a: we conflate incivility with heated discussion.

q: if you meet each other f2f will you be more civil online

q: in the UK extremely tricky libel situation.  Bloggers set policies – this is my house don’t pee on the carpet

“recreational outrage”,  intimacy and distance

see the terrible bargain series of posts (here, I think) – how you can’t say things that need to be said in person because of social structures.

what if you’re not the person who can set the policies for the space? If you can’t set the policy about who can pee on the carpet. – there was then an extended discussion of the value of policies and whether they promote civil discussion or whether they are exclusionary **

from the audience – need a group of people who buy into a set of collective norms that work in that environment

* how much of SH’s comments on the OSTP blog prevented others from participating?

** there is research that shows that policies are helpful in creating successful communities – see Preece.

6 responses so far

  • anonymous says:

    This session was full of ironies. Nobody asked, but I'd love to know what, exactly, constitutes a "troll." Sometimes the answer is clear (what you would expect to be considered "trolling" such as anti-vaccine crowd storming the comments with a bunch of baloney) but sometimes the definition is not so clear. Some blogs deal more with ideas (like Dr. Freeride) and some more with personality/personalities (like Dr. Isis).
    Like it or not, none of the blogs tolerate peeing on carpets. The differences lie in what is considered "peeing" and the nature of the "carpet."

  • El Picador says:

    ironic when huge guy calling for civility online got all spittle-y and in the face of another participant who was calmly making a point...

  • anonymous says:

    Actually, Zuska was the one to have an emotionally charged response to his point *first* (then he responded in kind). And that was indeed part of the irony. The truth is, both Zuska and Henry had valid points, both have things that they will and will not allow on their respective blogs. There was no argument (at least in the technical sense of the word) just impassioned point-making.

  • Christina Pikas says:

    I'm on my iPhone so I'll keep this brief. Henry and Zuska brought this to the session. The weren't really arguing the same point, just talking over each other. This is not one-sided

  • Jackie says:

    It was great meeting you at the conference. Stop by an say, "Hi!" on Element List.com sometime.

  • sikiş says:

    I don't expect everyone to love science, but the strong aversion to the subject I see in many people is troubling. What happens when this person has to make a health decision? Can they look past the pseudoscience in advertising and make good choices as consumers? Can they fully participate in questions about policy regarding science and technology such as stem cell research, environmental issues, genetic testing or engineering?

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