[Air-l] Lachlan Brown

Dean Rehberger rehberger at mail.matrix.msu.edu
Wed Mar 20 19:25:39 PST 2002

As we think about the actions of online communities, it is always good to
keep a few things in mind.  First, lists are run by institutions and they
can be held responsible for the actions of list members (harassment and
such).  So while we can hold up the ideal of free speech, list owners are
the ones often taking the legal risks and should be allowed latitude to act
to protect the list and themselves.

Second, I often find it strange that we hold up free speech but we are all
held to codes of conduct (sometimes written and sometimes unspoken) when
teaching and speaking in public-we don't harass or insult our students or
audience members but act in ways to develop a community.

Three, "troll" is a well established term like "flame" in online communities
and has a long history.  Perhaps to say Brown is a troll is somewhat
improper, but to say he exhibits the traditional qualities of a troll would
be dead on.

Four, while free speech is important, we all know - and often groan - that
we work under many limits when doing experiments on human subjects.  Brown's
announced enterprise to experiment on the list violates the very base of
academic freedom--we do have a right to not to be subjects of research.

As Stanley Fish says (something like), there is no such thing as free speech
and it is a damn good thing.  So it goes.  An interesting and important
topic for our work.

Dean Rehberger
Associate Director of Matrix
Associate Professor
Michigan State University
310 Auditorium
East Lansing, MI 48824-1120
rehberger at mail.matrix.msu.edu
wk: (517) 355-9300
fax: (517) 355-8363
hm: (517) 347-7372

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