Censorship in the blogosphere may trigger instant associations to China, Syria etc and policing the internet. But censorship may not only occur on the national or the macro level but also on the micro level. The extent of control exercised when readers comment on postings may say more about the individual/s running the blog than any statements made by them in their profile or postings.
Under the umbrella of an individual’s anxieties, i.e. the need to feel in control in the virtual world where many perceive themselves not in command but rather controlled by the invisible audiences – and other unknown forces – , the only way to restore order and a sense of power is to censor comments to a degree that may disencourage readers to comment at all. This resulting lack of feedback and interaction in a rapidly growing universe of blogs, online social networks, and microblogging tools such as twitter may contribute to a sense that ‘those out there’ are indeed powerful invisible audiences who consume but remain emotionally unavailable. A desired outcome of the regulatory mechanisms at the micro level in the blogosphere?
Ever been to Kauhajoki or met any of its 15,000 inhabitants? Me neither. But I spent quite some time in Finland and loved the country – although it is hard to remain as anonymous as one can be in London – or Berlin. A good thing? Rather not. The social control I encountered – to varying degrees – in Helsinki, Tampere and Kuopio
a few years back was rather unsettling. Everybody seemed to know each other, less than 5.5 million people in a country as large as crowded Germany – no way to evade into individualism, except in the online sphere perhaps. But that’s escapism as we all live it in these days, nothing special about that either – and who is really listening in these multi-million user online social networks anyway?
So Matti Saari may have been bored, a psychopath or eaten up with hatred as his comment on YouTube suggested but obviously, he was very keen on getting his message – and plan – out to a large community. ‘Guns, computers, sex and beer’ as he listed them are probably the hobbies shared by millions, nothing uncommon – and horror movies as well as heavy metal music are not just most popular in Finland. Whether the shooting was inspired by the 1999 Columbine school massacre is questionable – hatred is probably less fuelled by the desire to copycat but the bloodboths may have in common the shooters’ outsider status, the perceived powerlessness and their mental states.
The symptoms of deeply felt anger, despise and the desire to change things in a most destructive manner rather than the rationale itself seem to be focus of the media coverage. This raises the question why in the age of publicly made and widely accessible –online- announcements consumed by in-/visible audiences and those being tipped off, i.e. the police, the reaction is unchanged: paralysed in learned helplessness, waiting for the fatal moves before the blame game takes its toll. New media – old practices?
The number of concerning messages is rapidly increasing, think of status updates in Twitter or Facebook which provide visible glimpses into an individual’s mind, their mental state and their expression of hate, disgust, anger and all forms of depression. Commenting, warning, advising – or ignoring, how do we respond? How do YOU deal with messages of that kind?
I got stuck in the Northern Line this morning, 8am, on the way to work. So the conductor from within his separate space got in touch with the crowd: [tired voice] ‘would the person leaning against the door please move away…otherwise I will have to check all doors, and that’s going to take ages’. How was he imagining his audience, I wondered. If he was imagining us at all that is…
In front of me a lady in pink – applying make up, lots of make up to be fair. She managed to do that with a very quiet hand in the totally crowded tube, standing in move-with-the-speed mode. Impressive. Obviously, she was either used to audience, desiring ‘us’ as onlookers – or totally ignorant of all those around her attractive self.
Last night I discussed with a friend who wants to write a travel guide – and my own blogging experience came up. Again, audiences sprang to mind. Who are ‘they’ – are they groups, individuals, no names, blurred or simply a grey invisible mass?
Finally, I saw a tap show with friends on stage at the white cabaret [Inn on the Green, London], sitting on cushions in touching distance to the stage, and again: audiences. How did the performers visualise/imagine and perceive the audience/s – blurred in the shadows of a 1920s style purple/black ambience? Or did they ignore us in order to concentrate? Audiences – who are you? Frequently also of importance, perhaps even more so: where are you?
Apart from posting links I haven’t managed to write anything over the past few weeks since I set up this blog, my 3rd one. Partly due to lack of time and problems with reliable networks/access but mainly driven by the desire to post a bit of quality [the dichotomy of random thought vs cohesive conceptual structure?] and take the time to think first about content, then about structure and style – and finally the oh so powerful but mainly silent, passive and invisible audience. Who are you guys? Lurkers, ignorant surfers, bored office workers…? Politics of idenity and politics of representation are at stake.
As research student in the social sciences with focus on online social networks (OSNs such as facebook) blogging is not really easy, it seemed… why I am writing myself into being [echoing danah boyd’s claim] or is ‘cogito, ergo sum’ still valid – I think, therefore I am?