Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Debate is dead

So, reading over many of the blogs that Praveen sent in one of his previous emails, it occurred to me that a blog is not really about debate. The blogs that you read already says something about who you are, and that you are in partial agreement with the content. Not to call Praveen out here, but the blogs that he sent in a previous email, in some sense describes what Praveen has been thinking about recently. And I find them really good because they are related to many good conversations that Praveen and I have been having lately. The problem here (as it relates to debate), is that we read blogs that we are in agreement with already, and try to add factual information to them in order to better our world view in one direction.

The question I pose here, and I think I have an answer to, is this: Is there any open debate in the blogs? Would a conservative, right-winger read Talking Points Memo (TPM) and comment on what is being said? If people are not going to the blogs that are opposite from their ideology to educate people on the other side, then debate is truly dead. Blogs may be a place where debate can thrive, but the million dollar question is how do we get opposing sides of the issue to want to debate in a blog? Certainly to make a point, people will link other peoples blogs on the other side of the spectrum, but this is still just furthering ones mindset. People probably don't go to the other blog to comment, but more to get a handle on the point that their blog is making (or just to laugh at how stupid the other side is). They will most likely stay and comment in their own blog that shares their view.

Maybe I am wrong here, but do you guys see any open debate in the blogs? I mostly see people adding to one viewpoint and calling out the other side only in links in one links going back.

This is related to something that Praveen and I were talking about at one time related to right and left media. If we assume that blogging is a non-legacy, new form of media, then I think that what we need is a way to encourage debate between blogs; a way to display responses on both sides of any issue side by side in some sort of chronological ordering. A he-said, she-said type of format with links on the two sides of the pane. This, I think, encourages debate, because anyone can go and look to see if their blog is in debate with any other blog, and then join the debate.

For example, when TPM links, say some right-wing blog, wouldn't it be great if they were alerted to the fact that they have been linked by TPM. They can follow that link backward and reply to the attack on their own blog. The links back and forth between two blogs in frequency and time separation, imply an open debate between them, and these can be displayed side by side while the debate is in session. You can imagine whole teams of people (one blog) debating another whole team of people (the other blog). The front-end is something that looks at the time separation and frequency of links between all of the blogs, and displays debates that are in session. You can click on one of them, and it displays the two blogs, and updates any posts on either side of the issue. The user has control whether he wants to see a flame war, or a more thought out, slower debate by interacting with the time, frequency parameter of the front-end.

I am new to blogging, so I could be plain wrong in my assessments here, but I haven't really been able to identify debate between sets of blogs. They are typically one-sided, wherein a link is given, and there is silence from the other side. Silence because they probably have no idea that they are being called out in someone elses blog.


Blogger Praveen said...

This is an extremely important observation. The most important one to make at this point in time. I have been thinking about this for a while, but give me a moment to organize my thoughts. Promised to give out thesis proposal to Ken very soon. But in the meanwhile, check out the following resources.
They are some examples of resources that let you explore the blogosphere, as it is called. But not necessary in the direction that will push you hard, will contradict you. But if you were open minded, you might. They are encouraging random exploration of blogs. Consider the next blog link on top of this page. But not a directed exploration, esp in the parts that oppose you. Which is where you will learn the most. There is a prof at NU, Eszter Hargittai, who has done some work in this direction. Her students did a project comparing the link stats for liberal vs conservative blogs. Let me also try to get hold of that work, its not yet published, but might contain seeds of how to explore this. Hold on for my thoughts on this. Debate and diversity of opinion is the most important thing, and anything one can do to increase that will make the world a much better place. Blogs start to enable that by bringing opinions out there. But nobody has figured out how to connect them. Hold on for my real thoughts on this till late tonight.

11:45 AM  
Blogger Praveen said...

Havent yet got around to writing the reply to Jason's Nietchsewicz's bold pronouncement. It is deeper than I thought. Maybe this weekend. In the meanwhile.

Commnications of the ACM has a special issue on "The Blogosphere" with some interesting articles. I think from NU there is free access, I can email articles if Mike cant access them. I bet citeseer/google gets them all.

Communications of the ACM archive, Volume 47, Issue 12 (December 2004)

Table of contents: SPECIAL ISSUE: The blogosphere

Andrew Rosenbloom

Structure and evolution of blogspace
Ravi Kumar, Jasmine Novak, Prabhakar Raghavan, Andrew Tomkins

Why we blog
Bonnie A. Nardi, Diane J. Schiano, Michelle Gumbrecht, Luke Swartz

Semantic blogging and decentralized knowledge management
Steve Cayzer

How blogging software reshapes the online community
Rebecca Blood

Democracy and filtering
Cass R. Sunstein

1:26 AM  

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