Vito Prosciutto: Teaching community college math on the road to a PhD.

Friday, March 11, 2005

The state of the internet 

It occurs to me that I've been on the internet for nearly 20 years now (since back in the days when we talked about EARNET and BITNET and ARPANET and all that). During some talk about the future of the internet on NPR today, I found myself thinking about the blogosphere and what is really its most direct predecessor, Usenet News (see Google Groups to get some idea of what it is/was all about). I eventually gave up on Usenet for two main reasons:
  1. Any e-mail address attached to usenet posts gets stuffed full of spam
  2. After a while the discussions all become the same
It's that second point that's the bigger concern, I think. I was, for a while, an active poster on soc.religion.christian, but then I realized that it was all polemic and apologetics. Predestination vs free will, works vs faith, bible vs tradition. And while this is interesting, it didn't really hold my attention, especially once I realized that not one person would ever change their views. I see some of this same sort of thing happening with the political blogs.

After all, it's far easier to be polemic than to be constructive. I'm not going to change my political views because of something that I read on Little Green Footballs, so I'm not going to read Little Green Footballs. It turns out that this can be empirically demonstrated (the figure at the right comes from a study by Lada Adamic and Natalie Glance and is just one of their notable findings, the other being that political blog posts tend to be more about being critical of figures on the opposite side of the political divide than being positive about figures on the same side. It's the old s.r.c debates all over again, but in politics. It wouldn't surprise me, in fact, that there are religious blogs out there which are all about why the Catholics/Lutherans/Mormons/Jews/Muslims/Buddhists/Whatever have it all wrong.

Is there hope? Maybe in small ways. I guess, from my e-mail, that some prospective teachers were able to get a (perhaps frightening) preview of what teaching life is like. But the fact of the matter is that even the top dogs in this more social and supportive area of the blogosphere (Ms Frizzle comes to mind as probably the queen of the edubloggers) don't get the kind of readership that some of the third-tier political blogs get.

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