Psychology of Technology: In Praise of the Blog "Commentariat"
Some time ago, I wrote a post titled The Blogosphere Jungle in which I described the truly uncivil nature of the blogosphere in which respect for opposing views and dispassionate discourse were out and ad hominem attacks and demonization were in.
Yet, as I have followed and responded to many comments to my own blog posts and read many other blogs, I have come to see the “commentariat” in a very different light. Contrary to my earlier belief, it is not another indication of the end of civilization as we know it. Instead, I now see it as a vital force in our democracy that, though not exactly leveling the playing field altogether, it at least flattens it some so that it is not tilted so steeply in favor of the all-powerful ruling class.
To paraphrase Bill Shakespeare, today I come to praise the commentariat, not to bury it.
Yes, there is enough vitriol in the blogosphere that, if it could be harnessed as energy, would make fossil fuels obsolete. And, yes, some of it comes from ideologues who care little beyond proving the righteousness of their own beliefs and demonizing all those with whom they disagree. But a lot of that anger that we see among the commentariat is really just frustration felt by millions of ordinary people who feel powerless against our country’s powers-that-be. When you peel away the rage, what you hear are voices that want to be heard. Not just one vote every few years, but one voice that can be heard regularly. Before the blogosphere, there was no such platform from which those individual voices could gain others’ attention.
The blogosphere platform used by the commentariat is now immense. And I’m constantly amazed at the number of comments that are left on some blogs, many thousands on the most widely read blogs. Does seeing so many comments discourage others from sharing their own perspectives? To the contrary, it seems to inspire people to join the digital conversation, even if they are hardly heard above the commentariat din. What I gather from this high level of involvement is that, though being heard is an essential part of this new technological empowerment, of equal importance is simply having a place to speak out. And this newly found power hopefully energizes people to express themselves in other ways beyond the blogosphere.
One thing I love about the commentariat is that it keeps me honest and humble. It was easy in previous generations for commentators, found mostly on television and radio and in print, to feel like they were “all that” when all they heard or read was the self-perceived brilliance of their own words and no one else’s. But the commentariat has changed all that. As I noted in a recent reply to a comment, if I was looking for ego strokes, the blogosphere is definitely not the place to get them. Insults aside, the commentariat is only too happy to expose the holes, biases, and inaccuracies in my thinking, and rightfully so. It also forces me to confront the influence of my own ideology and dogma in the formulation of my ideas. Any time I think I’ve come up with the definitive perspective on an issue, the commentariat shows me that I’m, well, wrong (or at least, that I don’t have The Answer). In other words, the commentariat doesn’t let me fall too far in love with my own BS. Though I may find this “tough love” a bit uncomfortable, this feedback helps me grow as a thinker and a writer by exposing the sometimes yawning gap between what I believe to be true and what may actually true.
Before the blogosphere, commentators had a mostly one-way relationship with readers (letters to the editor notwithstanding) that resembled a lecture. Though the recipients of the expressed wisdom may have learned a few things, this unidirectional flow of information didn’t maximum the potential value that those initial ideas could offer. The commentariat now makes blog posts conversations in which ideas are exchanged, challenged, and expanded. In this powerful new role, the commentariat participates in “mass collaboration” and the creation of new ideas in the intellectual marketplace.
Sure, there will always be people on the lunatic fringe who are so wrapped in their own ideologies that real discourse is impossible. But for those many millions more who want to join in these cyber conversations, I say, “Pull up a chair and have a seat at the table. We’d love to hear what you have to say.”
It takes a great amount of courage to post blogs. I sometimes get a bit discouraged even when I post in the forums haha. Keep it up Jim. I would love to be able to post some of my own ideas, however sometimes when I feel like I have worked up enough courage to write up an ariticle/blog I start reading someone else’s work for the support and then I start to feel like my thoughts and ideas are already beeing represented. A lot of the time I feel like your posts are the most accurate representation of my own ideas. I have the feeling that your posts dont always just represent your own perspective, but you also represent those that share the same ideas. Call me a follower not a leader, but I like where you are taking us as you guide us through the “Psychology of Technology”.
Norcal Colby: Thanks for the good words. You definitely have to have a thick skin to blog (you should see some of the blog comments on the nontech sites I blog for, e.g., SFGate.com). But tech posts are generally pretty safe (with a dose of smartass thrown in usually).
I would encourage you to write. A lot of upside and not much downside. Plus, your ideas may actually be good ones that will benefit people. You never know till you try!
Thanks for the encouragement. I’ve never posted a blog before. It feels a bit like public speaking to me (Im not a big fan of that, not shy.. just get a bit nervous). I will probally spend some time collecting my thoughts and ideas and maybe talk to Doug about making a post later.
I have made it to the appendices, piepndax G, and the Bombardier spec sheets list the locomotives mass as 92 tonnes, axle loading of 23 tonnes, and horse power of 7500, 5600 kW. Since they will have AC traction motors this will give an effective coefficient of friction higher than the DC motored diesel locomotives. Their tractive effort would give an initial acceleration of about 0.4 m/s2 or slightly higher than the MP 40 s. GO could get this same acceleration by switching to AC motored locomotives for a lot less money.Page 137 gives the ALP’s weight as 147.5 tonnes and its hp as 4000. It would seem to be a different locomotive than the one for NJ transit. It gives a hp/ton rating of 5.3 which is the same as for the current diesels. Of more interest is piepndax H which compares EMU’s to locomotive hauled trains. The EMU’s have an 11 minute saving each way over the locomotive hauled trains between Union and Hamilton. This is two trains on a 10 minute headway plus crew costs. This could also result in a savings of 2 trains on the run to Oshawa/Bowmanville and two to Mt. pleasant. Six trains sets plus crew is a significant savings not to mention the time for commuters. Also all the calculations are for 10 car trains and running with 12 car trains will slow down the locomotive hauled trains as there is no extra tractive effort for initial acceleration even if they increase the power rating. A 12 car train would have an initial acceleration of about 0.34 m/s2.From the diagram of the Alstom cars on page 178 there is no reason that Bombardier could not build the bi-levels as EMU’s. If GO does go with EMU’s then I would humbly suggest that they change the name of the fare card from Presto to Ostrich to show a link to the faster EMU’s.