Read & Respond week 10 – Comment Culture

October 17, 2013

This week we’ll be talking about the people who talk about us (online): Commenters! Let’s get right into it with the worst of the worst: YouTube comments. Watch this seemingly harmless (and adorable) clip of President Obama calming a crying baby. Scroll down a hair to the top comments. Now take a deep breath and wade into the rest of the comment thread – try to get through a few pages, if you can. Yikes. Why does something like this seem so familiar?

Briggs this week talks about building a digital audience, but what do we do with that audience when it starts responding? A number of organizations – including YouTube – are toughening up on commenters. Popular Science actually shut OFF its comments. The first line of its announcements reads “Comments can be bad for science.” Harsh, or realistic?

Like them or not, reader interaction is part of mass communication today. Consider these two research fact sheets examining how reporters engage with uncivil commenters and potential differences in a “like” versus a “respect” button. There are clearly reasons to rethink anonymous comments, but on the other side of the “NymWars” (warning: Wikipedia source), we’ve got the argument that pseudonymous comments (e.g., BlogMastaB) actually tend to be better in quality! So what do you think? How important is it to connect individuals with their words?

Finally, there’s the question of identity. You might use the same name across multiple sites (for example, I show up as either “Aaaaaargh” and “The Bob The” in most places I go), you might have different identities in different places, or you might be one of the dreaded unregistered users. Read this Jeff Jarvis post on the role of identity – it’s not as simple as we tend to treat it. The more you use a name, the more history that name develops, allowing those who’ve never met you in the flesh to nonetheless know something about you, or at least about your persona. Your online identity(s) may not be identical to who you are at home, but to what extent are you responsible for it?

ALSO: For class discussion on Tuesday, I’d like you to take a look through the blog and social media presence of our guest speaker, Marshal Carper (a former student in this class). You don’t need to respond to those here, but be prepared to discuss his work in class.

Remember to respond to these readings (including Briggs) in a comment to this post by noon on Monday, October 21. More importantly, come prepared to discuss these examples and, ideally, some of your own.