[iDC] The difference between community and voices

John Hopkins jhopkins at tech-no-mad.net
Wed Sep 30 10:08:37 UTC 2009

> Social control is real, that's the problem. It is organized by elites 
> and imposed on the different classes, regional groups, ethnicities etc. 
> There are many forms of it. I am claiming that one of them, which has 

Dearest List

I am coming to wonder about the presence of powerful authorial voices on mailing
lists, and the radical departure from the traditional set of BIG voices
pre-internet that The Network promised, a utopia of pluralism.  Has it come to
pass?  I don't think so.

As I troll my personal archive of lists (nettime, spectre, 7-11, microsound,
x-change, etc), I find that all of the lists that I have "participated" in have
numerous subscribers (most list admins will not divulge the actual numbers,
though I hereby invite Trebor to), along with a very short tail of posters,
dominated by a very small clump of BIG voices.  Without hard numbers, but doing
a sort on poster names in my 15-year Eudora archive on a number of lists the
percentages run around 1-2% or less are BIG posters (80%+ of all content), with
another 3-10% taking up the balance and a minor number of single posters.  These
numbers are calculated on the total number of all posts, and would therefore be
MUCH more rarified if compared to all readers and subsequently, all subscribers.

What about all those other potential voices out there?

As I was reading yet another soaring post from Brian, I suddenly got the feeling
I was reading a NYT best-selling novel, a page-turner, compelling, seamless,
complete in both its content and its style (sometimes self-deprecating,
sometimes bold, provocative, inviting the reader to question (rhetorically or in
fact) the conclusions), a FORCE to silence competing views if only through the
eminent readability, completeness, and intellectual coherence and
seam-less-ness.  You can read nothing else except through the long text,
consuming in the process, a largish piece of irretrievable life-time.  Time
subtracted from embodied praxis.  The network labor of paying attention to BIG 
voices. When the reading is done, the time for action is also spent. 
Theory-as-text or text-as-theory soaking up valuable life-time for praxis, 
action.  And because the reading of this cannot simply stop in mid-word, 
mid-phrase, mid-sentence, mid-paragraph, mid-tome, mid-thread, mid-list 
subscription, more and more life gets absorbed in reading.  One long 
socially-constructed text which keeps action limited to eye-and-finger twitch 
for the duration.

And, by default, then, a dominant, BIG voice talking about action but 
obstructing the actuality.  Is a mailing list a community?
If community is a situation dominated by a small number of BIG voices and minor 
actions, I guess it is.  Is this a subtle form of social control?  what's the 
difference between that and subtle coercion?  (if I don't read, if I don't give 
attention to the BIG voices, is there a bite-back from the social system? I 
think so.)

What does the health of "community" mean if community is literally not more than
a handful of BIG voices within the collective? (community in quotes largely 
because of this historically repeated suspicion at the illusions of 
techno-democracy (or just distributed creativity) that was embedded at the 
outset of such online "communities")...

Wednesday morning non-threaded meditation commentary.


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