Commenting freely

In the age of the internet, the aristocracy of commentary has been deposed. You can, if you are so minded, turn to the leader writers of the old newspapers to get a perspective on what is happening at home and abroad, but you could just as easily turn to an interactive website, or the space at the bottom of opinion pieces on newspaper sites where you and I can enter comments. And boy, do we enter comments! By the truckload, actually. Some of them are totally bizarre and crazy, and a good few of them are either obscene or libellous. Well, depending on where you are browsing. But others are real contributions to the national and global conversation.

However, right now some websites are beginning to wonder whether this facility is a good idea, and whether the risks from open comments are greater than the benefits. Given the sheer volume, moderation is not usually a realistic option. So it may turn out to be the case that the anarchic but often lively forum for loud debate provided by large circulation websites will decline. Perhaps.

But actually, are not universities meant to be spaces for open discussion? So where are the websites hosted by higher education institutions that provide an opportunity for intellectual debate? As higher education itself, but also the world in which it is set, loses so many of its traditional assumptions, should there not be a space where this can be assessed and critiqued by the community? It is time for the academy to be a virtual debating chamber to which all have access.

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3 Comments on “Commenting freely”


  1. It’s an interesting idea, but would require a level of self-confidence that seems to be missing at the moment, as universities become more preoccupied with an intensification of inter-institutional competition that in turn places a premium on brand supremacy.

    Once it’s all about brand differentiation, it’s very hard to promote an open conversation. At the very least, an open conversation is where critical thinking about the virtue of branding may accidentally show, like a wardrobe malfunction.

  2. Vince Says:

    When I see 356 comments tacked onto the end of a 500 word opinion in some rag I wonder why some filtering isn’t applied where they can be slotted under four or so headings. Where the readers vote on which heading. On topic; Somewhat on topic; Off the walls roof floor; Requires checking; Thereby, using the readers to provide a jury. And you’d never know but what some dimwit of the legal guild calls libellous might have a new ‘Gentleman on the Clapham omnibus’ calling it.

  3. Colin Beagrie Says:

    There seems to be a movement these days towards identifying users by their true name. This approach does seem to reduce the number of venomous comments.

    Maybe this will prove to be the middle ground between over commenting or no commenting at all.


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