Civility Linkblogging: Classroom, Internet, and Transit

By Anita Pratanti, via flickr

This post is part of our ongoing effort to highlight discourse about civility around the web. Our articles for civility linkblogging come from a wide cross-section of blogs and newspapers, magazines and other websites, from the United States and abroad.

This week’s post focuses on what we might call small civilities — etiquette on trains and in parking lots, civility in online gaming communities and student evaluations. But as these articles all make clear, small civilities add up. Teaching evaluations in college classrooms may mean a venue to vent for disappointed students, but for instructors, they are a measure of continued employment. Crowded trains may seem like mere inconvenience, but as Dr. P. M. Forni says, in a close-quartered bus or train, you have in action two of the main incivility-causing factors. These are anonymity and stress. And in combination, they can escalate into violence.

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 [email protected]. Include the title, url, and a short summary, and we will gladly review it for publication.

Now — the list:

Want to Save Civility in Gaming Culture? Confront the Bullies.
Posted by Lisa Granshaw at The Daily Dot, May 12, 2014

Tito thinks engaging with these commenters is important and that just ignoring them doesn’t solve anything. Giant Bomb news editor Patrick Klepek, who spoke on another panel on the topic called “Why Internet jerks aren’t going to win, and you can help,” agreed.

“I don’t really subscribe to the idea of ignoring the trolls and they’ll go away, because—pro tip—they don’t…” he said. “We need to talk about this because we need to make sure people know what’s happening.”

Klepek points out harassment isn’t exclusive to game culture. It’s more of an Internet problem. He finds that instead of a passionate debate of opinions in his comments sections, there will be a small but vocal group that shouts and bullies.

Parking Lot Civility
Posted by Annabel Monaghan at, May 15, 2014

In the YMCA parking lot I was wholly focused on my own interests. I’m going to miss my meeting. I’m going to miss my shower. I’m really sweating here. How could this woman do this to ME? Since I was already so involved with myself, I decided to look a little closer. Yes, I too sometimes do thoughtless things that inconvenience others. I sometimes forget to signal or don’t notice that the light has changed. I sometimes stop my car in the middle of the street to chat with a friend and fail to notice the cars lined up behind me. There’s more, but you get the idea.

It was a humbling exercise, and by the time I finished my self-examination I was feeling pretty darn civil. If I can figure out how to make this a habit, then maybe I can keep it together the next time someone parks so close to me that I have to crawl through my trunk to get into my car. Because, guess what, I sometimes park like an idiot too.

ADL Head Warns of Bullies in the Internet Age
Posted by Eve Sullivan at the Stamford Advocate, May 20, 2014

Abe Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, said he was recently asked to give a college commencement speech, but then one student protested and said he would be a disruption to the graduation.

However, Foxman went “because this was freedom of speech used to bully and intimidate,” he said.

After the speech, Foxman said he publicly embraced the student who asked him not to come. He said the student later sent him an email saying he couldn’t believe the embrace happened, and that it was a lesson in civility.

Foxman said having a true democracy in society has always been a challenge, but he said he wonders whether people are now facing something more subversive.

Commuters Get Squished, Etiquette Gets Squashed
Posted by Samantha Melamed at, May 22, 2014

Nationwide, transit ridership is up 37.2 percent since 1995. On SEPTA Regional Rail, ridership grew by 50 percent in the last 15 years.

But it’s a recipe for rudeness, said P.M. Forni, founder of the Civility Project at Johns Hopkins University.

Incivility is an age-old problem, he said. “But in a close-quartered bus or train, you have in action two of the main incivility-causing factors. These are anonymity and stress.”

In other words, it feels OK to be a jerk on the bus, because you’re harried and no one knows you.

But, Forni warned, “Incivility often escalates into violence, and that’s one reason we need to take it seriously.”

Writing a Student Evaluation Can Be Like Trolling the Internet
Posted by Heidi Tworek at The Atlantic, May 21, 2014

Clearly, some students don’t take these assessments seriously, which is particularly problematic for non-tenure track faculty—teaching evaluations have become the singular metric for hiring adjuncts. Predictably, this has encouraged these educators to pander to students and acquiesce to grade grubbers.

But these issues aren’t unique to student evaluations. Course assessments look a lot like public discourse on the Internet, from product evaluations to discussion boards to comments sections on news sites. For some—the comment champions—this shift of power toward everyday users is emancipatory, offering spaces to share thoughts and shape how other people think and view products. For others—the comment curmudgeons—the often-derisive culture of online commenting eliminates chances for civil debate and intellectual integrity.

Civility Linkblogging: Turkey, Canada, and The Internet

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’s links, in part, follow a thread of discourse that has been developing since the beginning of July about civility, and civil discussion, on the Internet. They include an overview of research on how we might increase civility in comment threads. And they include a debate that is currently unfolding at The Toronto Star newspaper about whether allowing anonymous commenting is appropriate, given that it may encourage poor behavior.

The week’s links also include a discussion of some of the civility lessons that can be gleaned from the civic strife in Turkey, a conservative perspective on intemperate language in the Supreme Court’s majority opinion in the DOMA case, and a discussion that draws heavily on the work of sociologist and folklorist Gary Alan Fine about the causes of incivility in children and teenagers.

Do you have a link that you think would be right for this segment? Please do not hesitate to email it to us at [email protected]. Include the title, url, and a short summary, and we will gladly review it for publication.

Now — the list:

Readers Ask Why the Star Allows Anonymous Online Comments
Posted by Kathy English at The Toronto Star, July 5, 2013

While the Star’s digital team has put considerable and commendable effort into creating a “Community Code of Conduct” that spells out in clear terms this news organization’s expectations that commenters who want to have their say within the Star remain civil, Ferri well understands the concerns of those who believe that anonymity contributes to the incivility we abhor.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that requiring real names would reduce trolling,” he said.

There is also little doubt that requiring real names on comments would discourage some from commenting within the Star.

How Can Communication Technology Encourage Civility?
Posted by Derek Powazek at Big Questions Online, July 9, 2013

In this essay I will focus on exploring why we behave as we do online, and suggest some solutions for increasing civility. I’ll try to use as much social science as is possible. As this is a new area of research, some of the studies I reference are from other areas, but their results are apt. My central argument is that good people can behave poorly in online situations, but civil behavior can be encouraged by design.

Civility: It’s the Glue That Holds Society Together
Posted by Chris Hannay at The Globe and Mail, July 12, 2013

What is civility on a grand scale?

Civility is that moment when two groups who have been fighting for a very long time reach a stalemate, so they decide to agree to stop trying to kill each other and live with each other. To allow a certain measurement of disagreement. More than anything, it’s the idea of toleration.

Root Out Rude Behavior by Setting Example for Children
Posted by Bill Stanczykiewicz at The Salem Leader, July 15, 2013

Instead of celebrities or civic leaders, authoritative communities depend on parents, extended family, neighbors and community members. These caring adults exemplify and set clear rules and expectations, celebrate when these standards are met and immediately offer clear, even-tempered correction when they are not.

The best communication occurs when adults model the civil behavior they want young people to emulate, and members of the authoritative community realize that child development takes a long time.

Time For Internet to Grow Up
Posted by Nina Munteanu at The Toronto Star, July 6, 2013

Now it’s time for the Internet to grow up. To be sure, this boiling pot of largely unrestrained creativity has generated a vibrant revolution of free expression. The Internet culture currently flourishes with unique creativity and freedom within a chaotic sea of possibility. As an ecologist and follower of complexity theory, I see this as a good thing. But I also see the need for natural succession to occur.

How the Star and other media organizations treat this step in our online evolution may help shape the very freedom that Internet society so values. How we treat anonymity is the key.

Civility Must Start at The Top
Posted by David Nammo at The Washington Times, July 16, 2013

This is not to argue the legal merits of the DOMA. It is, however, voicing a word of warning about using the type of rhetoric the Windsor majority did. In both the short and the long run, it will serve no one’s legitimate purposes to demonize those holding opposing views or to declare those views on marriage “off limits” to debate. It is possible — indeed, essential — for those who support same-sex marriage to respect those who support traditional marriage, and vice versa. Vilifying opponents does not further the “evolution of equality.” Rather, it erodes that evolution and our civil society along with it.