Journalism is no longer a specialist pursuit

Another blogger was arrested in Egypt for being critical of the government;

Rami Siyam, who blogs under the name of Ayyoub, was detained along with three friends after leaving the house of a fellow blogger late at night. … No reasons have been given for Mr Siyam’s detention. The other friends were released after being questioned. … The most recently detained blogger, Abdel Kareem Nabil, was detained in Alexandria on 6 November and was charged with disrupting public order, inciting religious hatred and defaming the president.

Nothing says tyrant quite like being imprisoned for defaming a political leader. This is why I believe George Brandis’ speech on the sedition laws in Australia was important and hopefully he follows through on it with his voting habits.

The Industrial Revolution meant that media moved to capital intensive mass-production. The rise of the internet has meant media has become commoditised mass-authorship. The commoditisation of the production and distribution process has mean there has been an explosion of authorship. As the quality and popular authors gather audiences to them, they increase in influence, and in non-liberal regimes become a threat to the authority of those in power – which is what is happening in Egypt.

A good example of mass-production vs mass-authorship is Andrew Bolt and Tim Dunlop – now posting side by side. Andrew got an audience in typical mass-production manner by getting a job with a mass-media outlet and working from journalist to columnist. Tim by contrast had to compete in the highly cut-throat and competitive market of the internet blog community and build an audience through quality output. Both are legitimate forms of reaching an audience but mass-media has often traded quality in return for a larger audience. This is a compromise that mass-authorship does not have to make due to less economic pressure to sustain or grow an audience.

News Corp is in the business of mass-audience and trolling is a successful technique to widen an author’s audience. Adequacy is probably the internet’s best archive of that literary form. The mass-production form of trolling is just as sophisticated. It is a combative literary form that aims to echo-chamber one group of the audience while trolling the other. It is designed to double the audience by making extreme comments that will get one part of the audience writing letters to the editor in complete agreement while the other group will write letters to the editor in complete disagreement.

Akerman’s entry on Warzone Whingers is a good mass-production example of this technique. It was a successful enough troll that it brought down News Corp’s blog servers who couldn’t handle the number of people viewing and commenting on it. The comments are either full agreeance or full disagreeance – no half-ways – which is the failure of echo-chambering and trolling as it only raises extreme passions. Trolling is intended to provoke a rabid response so that the poster or commenter discredits themselves by their irrational actions.

Personally I consider trolling and echo-chambering negative passions as well as examples of lazy authorship or ‘op-ed by numbers’. That the Egyptian government is throwing bloggers in jail suggests those authors aren’t doing ‘blogging by numbers’. It is good that their government considers them a threat – as they should do – however locking them up shows how impoverished political equality in Egypt is.

Mass-authorship is an improvement over mass-production as the authors that would have been denied a mass-production seat in the past no longer have to deal with the structures of capital intensive media in order to be published or build an audience. This has definitely improved the quality of media. Journalism is no longer a specialist pursuit. The internet has made it a generalist occupation which has led to more and more authors indulging in journalism by being nothing more than citizens prepared to record and comment on the world around them.

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gilmae
15 years ago

Trolling is such an effective way of garnering attention and winding up opponents that even the politicians are doing it now. Jason Soon at Catallaxy, for example, bit down hard on what I believe was a troll by a US Representative, Charles Rangel.

Slashdot may be the original home to a lot of master trolls, but the craft gestated in usenet. Slashdot feels more like the missing link in the evolution from usenet to web-based forums and blogs.

cam
cam
15 years ago

Usenet started adopting administrators on mailing lists. The slashdot and k5 style of public moderation has its limits. I stopped posting on k5 when the trolling and flaming destroyed discourse. It is interesting to see that blogs adopt an editor/administrator model to maintain a level of public civility. Scale is still an issue though. I agree with gilmae that politicians are trolling in order to get a response – sometimes with very focused language IMO.

Francis X Holden
15 years ago

slashdot and k5 were opart of the evolutionary trail to the current blogs. The other branch was the original weblogs that consisted only of interesting daily or weekly links on a web page. Before that there was usenet and irc. [side note: Jacques I’m personally wounded that you left out irc – sob]

Trolls were part of all these. Trolls and those with asperger tendencies were big part of irc and usenet. I eventually abandoned both to go reading blogs.

irc privileged fast typists with slabs of uninterruptd time at the key board and severe obsessions (disturbingly often with Ayn Rand) so the person with a life outside the bedroom and other tasks was squeezed out.

usenet could still survive trolls and wreckers (I do admit I still miss the true “net kooks”) but was overtaken by webby technology that just made it too hard to do usenet and too easy to use web forums and blogs. [an example is dylanology. it used to be that alt.rec.music.dylan plus irc was THE only place to be, but although it still has the odd gem any objective view will agree that “Expecting Rain” and others have taken over]

k5 I gave up years ago and slashdot has always been the home of the Open Source / MAC/ Bill Gates troll – but I do like their way of organising threads using some of the old usenet style – blogs with volumes of comments could do well to follow the thread/comment style.

Francis X Holden
15 years ago

I forgot mailing lists. important. many stoushes and legal threats on usa mail lists.

cam
cam
15 years ago

Jacques, It’s a pity IRC has faded from view as a popular medium

So which IRC network did you and FXH haunt? I am actually on slashnet atm, I usually keep my laptop off to the side so I can do/monitor a few things at once.

The archiving of usenet is indispensable for software development. Same with mail-archive.com and its archiving of the apache/jakarta mailing lists.

Francis X Holden
15 years ago

oh yes irc didn’t reward the troll too well. I can remember in the good old days when all sorts of people would drop in.

I remember during one of the Israeli wars having people on irc who were sheltering in their basement in Israel while bombs landed nearby, and also during one of the Balkans conflags watching as participants used irc channels to communicate. During the leadup to elections irc was as busy and stimulating as CS Backpages was in it’s heyday around election time, even Antony Green would drop in. These days I only go back to indulge in nostalgia – no one is there – it’s mostly dead and dead boring. But it is still a good medium for those on dial up.

Blogging or net writing won’t take over from mainstrean journalism nor will many MSM “opinion” columists make it on the net because most of them are as cam say just trolling for volume and conflict, she said, you said, ’tis, ’tisn’t, style.

The big change, and it’s already sneaking in, is that the MSM, tv especially, then radio and increasingly daily print will become more like the old web, short grabs / headlines 1 or 2 paras of issues while we turn to the web for depth, analysis and thought provoking writing that links context, academic and knowledgable experts with accessable writing.

It’s already beginning: Dunlop on MSM web site with thoughtful blog which links to other info and also links to stuff like Quiggin and others.

New(s)papers will shrink dramatically in size, and possibly become free, for train reading, in bed or coffee reading or smoko tea room reading, but have urls for more info at the end of each article. The big dailies will do more lifestyle and fashion and eventually someone, my bet is FinRev, will do a New York Review of Books or such with decent depth content. Already each Friday’s FinRev is the best quality and value buy of all the options, including magazines.

Francis X Holden
15 years ago

cam – what channel and nick?

cam
cam
15 years ago

FXH, cam- on #husi slashnet (some mongrel registered ‘cam’), used to be on IRCnet (#australia etc) back in the early/mid 90s.

Francis X Holden
15 years ago

?
no cam on whois

cam
cam
15 years ago

FXH, cam with a hyphen

Francis X Holden
15 years ago

FXH :#clubtroppo
FXH vortex.slashnet.org :SlashNET – Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
FXH: 52 seconds idle, logged in at 22/11/2006 1:12:23 AM (GMT)
fxh :End of /WHOIS list.

gilmae
15 years ago

I knew a lot of trolls when I was a regular on IRC and this was on the two-bit esper network. But trolling on IRC was too delicate a balance for most; it was easy enough to troll, but you had to hold back just enough that you weren’t simply kickbanned.