[Air-l] Aftermath of flame war

Ingbert Floyd ifloyd2 at gmail.com
Thu Sep 14 09:39:12 PDT 2006

Disclaimer: This email is *not* a criticism of the list, or of
individuals on the list, please don't take it as such.

I gotta say, I was very surprised by the length and intensity of the
flame war on a list devoted to people who study such things.
(Frankly, I ignored most of it, so I'm not in a position to take
sides.)  But I'm quite fascinated by the aftermath.  I mean, I've seen
messages of all different types, and some really interesting patterns
are emerging:

* paranoia - people (on both sides) seeing attacks where there weren't
any (as far as I could tell);
* reactive behavior - classification of human beings into clear
categories (e.g., troll, academic, etc.), usually negative, and the
consequential seeming inability to interpret text composed by the
categorized person as being anything besides the stereotyped behavior
of the category;
* gang mentality vs. it's-me-against-the-world mentality, and how they
seem to feed and nourish themselves on the other;
* concilliatory behavior by people who want to see the dispute end
** and the outright rejection of the concilliatory behavior;
* expressions of disgust and threats to leave as a different strategy
for trying to end the disputes.
** and the disregard for (ignoring of) the negative attempts at trying
to end the dispute;
* and all kinds of attention-getting behavior in order to keep
promoting the person's particular side of the argument--an inability
to let go.

More importantly, I see this as a wonderful opportunity.  We have a
list full of people who study this kind of online behavior, and we
have both observers/outsiders who had no part in the flame war, and we
had participants from both sides, who can provide their insider
perspective, and all of it will be informed by academic (in the
non-pejorative sense) knowledge.  How much better of a research
opportunity is this?  And we have the venue for collaboration already
here: the AoIR list itself.  We don't seem to have lost any of the
main participants (I could be wrong here), and we could go off-list to
contact those people who did leave (we have their email addresses in
the archives, no?).  I mean, we talk about collaboration a lot, well,
here's a chance to explore a new type of academic publishing model
(hey, at least anybody with tenure can afford to try it out), loosely
based on the wikipedia model of massive participation and many eyes to
capture all perspectives, except all the participants are academics.
What do you think?  People always criticize academics for being behind
the trends, struggling to catch up.  By developing a truly
community-wide/community-inclusive research methodology we'd be ahead
of the trend.

And, who knows, the community-wide participation in such a positively
oriented/constructive activity might just be the type of behavior we
need to start the healing process ;)


Ingbert Floyd
PhD Student
Graduate School of Library and Information Science
University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign


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