Blogs > Liberty and Power > Blogging, Ethics, and Liberty: A Symposium with Paul Musgrave

Mar 5, 2005 2:49 am

Blogging, Ethics, and Liberty: A Symposium with Paul Musgrave

Paul Musgrave and I have lately completed a two-blog structured dialogue/ symposium/ seminar (gosh, what do you call these thingamajigs that emerge as components of a new spontaneous order?). It's on the theme of"Blogging, Ethics, and Liberty."

Here is a quick review of our posts. For those of you who have not been following the exchanges, you can start wherever you like or read everything straight through; each post can stand alone or be read as part of a dialogue.

I: Opening Remarks.

a.) Paul sets out the terms of the debate:
Blogs are perfectly exclusive spaces in which writers may express any opinion with no prior censorship. By processes we can define as exogenous, some bloggers will have audiences approaching or exceeding medium-sized newspapers or radio stations. Aside from the remote legal sanctions that can be applied to the exercise of free speech (especially loose in the United States), what, if any, ethical obligations do bloggers have to the wider public (defining ethical obligations as self-imposed restrictions on content)? I argue that there are some few ethical obligations, that enforcement will be extremely difficult given the self-selecting nature of blog audiences and the incentive structure governing the behavior of agents in the game, and that many constraints we may think of as 'ethical' in the first consideration are actually credibility-building measures.
There's much more in the full post.

b.) I add my bit, which is a sort of mock-Platonic exposition on The Good as relates to blog posts: What is it we're after, anyway, when we read a blog?

II. Replies and Reconsiderations

a.) Paul replies, noting the very different stances (and even genres) we have used, questioning what each of these stances mean for readers, writers, and those who do a little of both.

b.) Struck by the lack of the social in my initial remarks, I attempt to re-introduce it--by way of catallactics (and also by a diversion through the online world of Diablo II). The result is, in my own words, a quasi-catallactic theory of blogging. Obviously, it's heavily inspired by my recent reading on Hayek.

c.) Paul replies again, discussing strategic link behavior, blog traffic, webrings, and group blogs as examples of spontaneous order in the blogosphere. I am afraid he is pessimistic:
So what happens to the civilising influence of blogs in this regard? I am afraid that I must end on a pessimistic note. Since bloggers' utility from participation in the life of this virtual community comes from such different sources, and because there is no clearly viable and immediately obvious standard that we can use to measure the value of blogging, we are left with a situation in which the civilising effects of a market society are almost nonexistent. There are few incentives to be polite to your 'opponents' if unremitting hostility and disdain win you more readers and more links.
III. Unresolved questions

Is there a currency in the blogosphere, or anything like it? Can there ever be one? What media or forms of exchange best allow complex information transfer among blogs, including esteem, interest, political alignment, and style? Comments on any section of the symposium are welcome, and we may yet reopen it if substantial new issues arise.

[Crossposted at Positive Liberty.]
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Kenneth R Gregg - 3/9/2005


I appreciated your comments here and in Positive Liberty on catallactics, as well as the references to catallaxis' discussion of catallactics, and Thomas McQuade and William Butos' essay, Order-Dependent Knowledge and the Economics of Knowledge

You might also be interested in looking at the "Swarm" structures as well. Ian Grigg's paper, Using Electronic Markets to Achieve Efficient Task Distribution, provides some explanation of this.

Dr. Stephen Clarke-Willson has done some brilliant work on human systems, and Timothy Wilken, MD has done quite interesting work on complex social tensegrity, albeit from a Bucky Fuller/Alfred Korzybski-an perspective.

Just a thought.

Just Ken

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