Civility Linkblogging: Reddit, West Virginia, California, and NYC Subways

Civility Linkblogging
A Lynx, because Linkblogging

This post is part of an ongoing series that highlights discourse about civility from around the Web. We glean the links in this segment from as broad a cross-section as we can manage of blogs, newspapers, magazines, and other online venues, from the United States and around the world.

This week brings two very interesting developments. The first is a pair of articles — one from The New York Times and one from The Chicago Tribune, about the aftermath of Ellen Pao’s resignation as CEO of Reddit, and what it portends for the state of civility on the popular website and around the Internet more broadly.

The second is a photo essay by Luis Tsukayama Cisneros, sociologist at The New School for Social Research, about the formation of community and civility on New York City subways.

As always, if you have an article that you think would be right for future civility linkblogging posts, please do not hesitate to email it to us at editor@instituteforcivility.org. Include the title, url, and a short summary, and we will gladly review it for publication.

Now — the list:

Mingo Woman Starts Campaign Encouraging Civility
Posted by Marcus Constantino at The Charleston Gazette-Mail, July 15, 2015

Teresa McCune said the Campaign for Civility is aimed at fostering behaviors “founded upon the fundamental dignity and worth of all our community members and to creating a climate that is characterized by respect for each other.”

She said she wants to give people the opportunity to express their opinions and work toward solutions in a civil, respectful way, and she wants to encourage small acts of kindness that can make a difference in people’s lives.

Online Trolls Winning Battles, but War of Civility Left to Wage
Posted by Mary Schmich at The Chicago Tribune, July 19, 2015

Some people say Ellen Pao wasn’t a good CEO at Reddit, and that’s not just the trolls talking. True or not, her job performance doesn’t matter in this regard.

What matters is her message: Online harassment, wherever and however it occurs, is wrong.

What matters is that people at the top of the Internet power structure see that and say it.

If every top manager at every media and Internet company had the experience Pao just had, of being widely vilified online, they’d work harder at figuring out how to keep the trolls from winning.

Who Would Take Issue with Request for Civility? COLAB, For One
Posted by Tom Fulks at SanLuisObispo.com, July 19, 2015

Supervisors recently voted unanimously to adopt a symbolic resolution doing nothing more than asking people to be nice and stay on topic when addressing elected bodies. Who could object to that?

The Coalition of Labor, Agriculture and Business, of course. COLAB — a front group for developers masquerading as farmers — seemed particularly affronted by the LWV’s suggestion that relevance and civility are worthy ideals….

My old pal Dewd MacDougal likens them to recidivist gas passers. It’s usually the offender who first raises the odious alarm, attempting to deflect blame, he says.

“The smeller’s almost always the feller,” Dewd often says.

I can’t disagree.

When the Internet’s ‘Moderators’ Are Anything But
Posted by Adrian Chen at The New York Times, July 21, 2015

The moderator class has become so detached from its mediating role at Reddit that it no longer functions as a means of creating a harmonious community, let alone a profitable business. It has become an end in itself — a sort of moderatocracy in which the underlying logic of moderation has been turned on its head. Under the watch of its moderators, Reddit has become a haven for extremists: The Southern Poverty Law Center recently called it the new “home on the Internet” for white supremacists, and it also functions as the central organizing point for the dubious “men’s rights” movement….

Any attempt to enforce real-world norms is rejected by the moderatocracy as impinging on their absolute authority over their miniature domains. Even before the revolt, Ellen Pao sparked much consternation by instituting an anti-harassment policy and banning a handful of subreddits with particularly vile content — Redditors nicknamed her Chairman Pao. Ohanian has excused Reddit’s underbelly as an inevitable result of human nature. But Reddit has made a strategic choice to abdicate responsibility to the moderatocracy in exchange for the promise of meteoric growth, even if its new chief executive, Steve Huffman, recently vowed to crack down on the worst subreddits.

Between Personal Stories and the City: Civility in New York City Subways
Posted by Luis Tsukayama Cisneros at Culture: The Unintended Consequences of Looking Sideways

Co-presence (being at the same time in the same space) of people is important for civility to exist because culture and meanings are never static, they are created in interaction between individuals (Goffmann 1966, Mead 1934, Berger and Luckmann 1966). But even when there are no direct interactions between individuals there can be a consciousness, a realization, that there are people one sees everyday in the subway who are going through same situations as us and similar lives to ours. People create the social world together, but this creation is based on how we understand it in our consciousness (Schutz 1967). Civility is based not only in the actions of people, but also in how people perceive and understand themselves phenomenologically within a society. Likewise, civility is not necessarily dependent on interaction between individuals, but rather, contact (Delaney 1999) and acknowledgment.

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