[iDC] The difference between community and voices

Lucia Sommer sommerlucia at gmail.com
Wed Sep 30 23:22:09 UTC 2009

Dear John,

As one of the "smaller" voices, who has nonetheless enjoyed a number of the
threads on this list, I appreciate the spirit of this post, in asking
important questions.

I'm not sure, however, whether the problem is really one of "too much"
seamless theory - or whether it is simply a relative lack of attention to
action, that can't necessarily be blamed on the "big" voices.

I do also think it would be important to examine the gender dynamics
involved in the question of "big" and "small" voices. I have noticed a
dynamic on this - and many other - lists, wherein women's contributions to
discussion tend to be overlooked / ignored, etc.

Similarly, posts of people newer to a list tend to be ignored to a greater
degree. This latter may be at least somewhat unavoidable, due to the
nonrational bonds in friendships or acquaintances formed off-list.

Not surprisingly, people find this discouraging and will choose to focus
their energy elsewhere, thereby diminishing the multiplicity of voices on a



On Wed, Sep 30, 2009 at 6:08 AM, John Hopkins <jhopkins at tech-no-mad.net>wrote:

> > 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
> 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.
> jh
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Lucia Sommer
60 College Street
Buffalo, NY 14201
(716) 359-3061
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