Communication online is a great deal different to the communication we experience in everyday life through face to face contact. One of the biggest factors determining how individuals converse physically is the ability to read the second party by gauging their emotions and gaining greater understanding of how the message is being sent or received. Individuals can comprehend an array of different physical factors, including tone, volume and pace of voice, as well as facial expressions and bodily gestures which all aid in gauging an individuals stance on a subject, or their interpretation of a message you’re sending to them. It can also mean, as a message sender, we can act more cautiously in certain situations when communicating certain messages. We don’t want to necessarily offend a stranger, as if we rub someone up the wrong way, we don’t know who they are, what they’re capable of, how they will react to our comments. This is potentially why we’re more reserved in person and feel like we have greater freedoms online.
These freedoms, for some individuals, admittedly go beyond what the majority of people would deem as acceptable, ethical behaviour online and snowballs into negative, aggressive and abusive conduct online, which we’ve seen in recent years with cyber bullying and trolling, such as depicted in this weeks lecture with a tweet directed at Julia Gillard, with an individual saying they would give her a noose for her birthday (Martin, 2013).
The lecture, conducted by Fiona Martin of Sydney University delved into some of the emerging issues surrounding online conversation and anonymity, citing that “new ethics of communication [are] required” (Martin, 2013) in this environment.
The weeks prescribed reading glanced over the ABC’s experiences through facilitating online conversation as it’s become infinitely more popular over the last ten years. “It’s as if people feel so voiceless in the old media and now they have a voice, now they can express what they think publicly, they want to scream it out – and if anyone questions that or tries to moderate it they respond with this incredible anger” (Taylor, 2010 cited by Martin, 2013).
Australian Cricketer David Warner recently had found himself amidst a twitter argument with News Ltd journalist Robert Craddock after his image was used in an article talking about India Premier League and match fixing allegations in the sport. An impulsive, angered Warner took straight to the social media platform to speak his mind and criticize the journalist. After being fined by Cricket Australia for his colourful language, Warner stated “I’ll keep speaking my mind and always have my opinion and I’ll always try to defend myself in the right choice of words.” (ABC News, 23rd May 2013).
So what place does moderation of online conversation really have? Individuals like these open forums to freely voice opinions, regardless of whether they’re negatively motivated or positive, constructive or destructive. We’ve moved from an era of passively consuming content to being able to actively engage with it, direct responses and challenge what we’re handed. Individuals don’t want these babied platforms where they can’t swear or speak ill of something they don’t like. Whether it’s ethically permissible or not is a completely different conversation, defamation laws can still protect individuals’ reputations from online scrutiny if it’s that big an issue. Essentially, we’ve been granted with greater freedoms of speech than we’ve ever experienced before, and through platforms like Twitter, Facebook and WordPress, individuals can say whatever they want. And so they should.
ABC News, ‘David Warner Apologises for Inappropriate Language in Twitter Outburst’, Thursday 23rd May 2013, accessed http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-05-23/warner-apologises-for-twitter-rant/4708016
Martin, F 2012, ‘Vox Populi, Vox Dei: ABC Online and the risks of dialogic interaction’, Histories of Public Service Broadcasters on the web, editors Brugger, N & Burns, M, New York: Peter Lang pp 177-192.
Martin, F 2013, Moderating the Conversation, lecture BCM310, Emerging Issues in Media and Communication, University of Wollongong, delivered 20th August.