A Troll Who Cares--Jonathon Paige & the Ethics of Blogging

Day two of my effort to put something here everyday.

Today I point to a very interesting post sent to me by mxrk, one that relates to our blogging class/project/article. An internet troll details how he created Jonathon Paige's twitter persona and corresponding SummerHoopScoop blog as an ethical experiment. Mxrk and I have our students do something similar in our blogging class, without the overtly critical and potentially unethical angle.

Near the end, the troll draws several morals to his story, and I think two of them lie at the core of my teaching and research:

  1. Only trust PROVEN sources that have a track record and accountability.
  2. Keep your ears open to bad news as well as good news. When you hear negative news about your school's chances with a recruit from a trusted source or all the facts don't add up in your favor, don't go in to denial about it. Just accept what you are seeing and hearing. A Scout.com analyst is not wrong just because he brings bad news. A random recruiting twitter account is not right just because it tells you what you want to hear. Be smart about what information you hear and where it comes from.

I'm thinking especially of the second bullet in connection with Rickert's Acts of Enjoyment. I've been using Rickert's final chapter (an expansion of his "Hand's Up, Your Free!" article) to point out a contradiction in Martha Nussbaum's Not For Profit, namely that critical thinking can foster empathy (I'm arguing that the Socratic critical disposition actually requires the suspension of empathy). But Rickert and Nussbaum share one assumption: that human beings are not fundamentally "fixable" creatures, that psychoanalysis begins with the assumption that we come with problems (Ulmer: "Problems B Us"), and that the "good" life (or the good pedagogy) begins by dwelling within this fallen condition (rather than seeking to remedy it once and for all, as if any such final solution was possible). Levinas also frames the individual as fundamentally flawed (in terms of his/her debt to alterity, a debt too great to ever be completely repaid)--and I think that overlap resonates with me.

I have a special place for trolls in my heart, since they occupied an important part of my dissertation; there I used Internet trolls to demonstrate that there isn't necessarily an essential "goodness" to digital connectivity. At the same time, I argued that digital trolls were the inheritors of the cultural studies/Socratic/counter-culture/American Transcendentalist/critical tradition. While I appreciate their intentions, I remain torn on the issue of their methods. But I like this piece for the way that it demonstrates the fluid nature of ethos in the digital age. What I take away: every individual needs to be savvy, attentive, and open.

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