Saturday, September 18, 2010

On “systemic indelibility”

Imagine that you are struck with a curious and rather outlandish thought that you don’t necessarily want to defend for the rest of your life but nonetheless feel compelled to share — if only to see how others react. You write an impassioned paragraph detailing your idea but pause before posting the entry online. Without an editor, you are the sole judge of the quality of your work, and you are aware that by hitting the “publish” button, you would be subjecting yourself to possibly harsh, often anonymous criticism. You must take into account the Internet’s systemic indelibility: that henceforth your entire intellectual stance could be defined by a single, possibly ill-conceived argument.

So you vacillate between killing the conversation before it begins or risking becoming “misrepresented and burned”.... Inevitably, this ends in some form of self-censorship. Not every form of online self-censorship is necessarily harmful — if people stopped documenting such things as the intimate details of their breakfast, society would hardly be worse off — but aside from oversharing, what will happen to plain sharing? Withholding inane tweets or provocative photos is one thing, but what will become of intelligent exchange and thoughtful conversation?

Atossa Abrahamian on the epistemic consequences of a medium that “never forgives, and never forgets.”

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