Dennis Jones is a Jamaican-born international economist, who has lived most of the time in the UK and USA, and latterly in Guinea, west Africa. He moved back to the Caribbean in 2007. This blog contains his observations on life on this small eastern Caribbean island, as well as views on life and issues on a broader landscape, especially the Caribbean and Africa.







**You may contact me by e-mail at livinginbarbados[at]gmail[dot]com**

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Totally Blogged Down In The Mud

It's always good to look back at how you arrive somewhere when you had no idea where you were headed. I found myself in an involuntary experiment over the past few weeks. I was subjecting my views to a lot of counterargument, but merely trying to make my point. Online dialogue is unreal in many ways, not least because it happens sequentially, whereas real speech allows for a lot of interruptions and the interaction of several voices at the same time, and it's then the ear that has to order things.

The other blogs that dominate when it comes to commentary about Barbados, each have Barbados in their titles. But, what struck me very recently was that there was no way to know what if anything about Barbados they represented. Very few of the participants are actually known to the general public. The expression of views about a subject does not make those commenting close to that subject. Therefore, there was no way to know if any or none of the commentators were in fact Barbadians. At one extreme, one could argue that the nature of the views that are expressed are so ... that if they were believed to be true Barbadians they would paint such people in a very negative light. The voices could be totally false. In which case, we would have to ask "Who is behind this?" It's a kind of Trojan Horse strategy.

I am a known entity, with bona fides that are verifiable. Apart from a few notable authors, most of the initial contributions, are generated by the blog hosts/moderators. But who are they? What makes them Barbadian, other than a claim? Most of the commentators use 'handles' and these show nothing at all but a varied degree of imagination. Who or what could be "IMHO". Who or what is "Patty Man"? And so on?

In the case of one of the prominent blog, the nature of many of the discussions follow a fairly predictable pattern, or set of patterns. The opening salvos are usually near to the topic. If comments that follow are generally supportive of Barbados, the commentaries tend to sail along. If critical commentaries emerge, they start to get drowned out by a variety of means. This can happen even if there are some reasonable sounding commentators who appear to be engaging fully on the issues, however they develop. One drowning out method is the unsubstantiated slur (no need to utter, a visit will offer enough actual examples; some are peppered with profanity). Another is to argue that the opposing voice is getting too much airplay, even if favourable voices have far outstripped the dissenter in terms of entries and even actual words. Another is to urge other commentators to ignore the dissenting voices. Another is to urge the moderator to 'control' (ie limit) the dissenting voice. Much of this is hilarious if you note that the basic posture is that of upholders of free speech. So, it's free so long as it sings the right tune.

Nothing happens in straight lines. Amongst the 'choir', if I can refer to the usual crop of commentators, there are some persistent 'bad' apples. They are like 'rogues' and seem to get let loose at various times to 'destabilize' the dialogue. One of their common characteristics is to post innumerable comments that have no real bearing on the actual conversation, like text or chat room veribage.

One of my views is that some of these blogs are almost like Ponzi schemes. In that they are building pyramids that appear to be large but are really held up by a lot of online hot air. Another aspect is what the traffic volumes are really representing. It's well known that many online presences can be income earners due to the number of visitors or hits. If blog threads generate lots of comments this can be equivalent to real money coming in. The nature of some comment suggest that they are just hit generators, and one can see that if there are some 300-500 comments on a post and a new post each day that can add up. How much, I have no idea. But there is also the simple kudos of getting high Internet ratings.

All of this, if it is near to being right puts the blogs in another light. While they may put out material that touches 'hot button issues' one has to be careful in interpreting what else they do. In no way are they representative, if one looks at unique commentators. Strident voices are loud but not the whole body. Given that Barbados is renowned for its people being reluctant to express themselves, it is telling that even on a blog with near total anonymity, the unique voices are so few; they cannot even be rounded to 1/2% of the population.

I think that I have thought this through correctly, as far as I can. I do not know if there is a money trail, but if there is good on yer. But, where is it leading? I like to say "Stay with the ball, don't buy the fake." If the ball does not move, then you do not. I think balls are being put into play but have more belief that they are not being moved very far. Of course, I may be totally wrong.

1 comment:

Anonjam said...

Good piece.