I mentioned a couple times that I don’t know what to do when something like GamerGate comes up. It’s horrific, absolutely. It’s corrosive to a general faith in humanity and a reminder that INTERNET FREE-ANCE!!1!™ is only as useful as people’s ability to use the Internet without having to endure trauma-inducing levels of terrorism.
I don’t know what I have to add as a middle-aged white dude on this. I can tell you, from working in political blogging, that it’s real and it’s pervasive. While back in those days I might get the occassional message to “go choke to death on a cock”, women I knew were subject to attacks that seemed disturbingly real and considered. And frequent. And repetitive. I know Audrey Watters has suffered similar, and you have to look no further than Kathy Sierra to see how far people will go. Effeminate males also get targetted — this is certainly a case of rage that marginalized groups get to speak at all.
I’ve dealt with these issues multiple times in my career. At one point, after having spent months of my life building up an active hyperlocal site for my hometown I shut the whole thing down when I found it was being used to bully and intimidate a female city worker who had been targetted by local “libertarians” as an environmetal “nazi”.
After a creepy Photoshopped image was posted on the site, I went over my options — this was a well organized group with national connections in the thousands. Escalation was inevitable, and I didn’t have the resources to keep that community a safe place. And I won’t run something that is not a safe place.
So I shut it down. That night.
I usually don’t talk about this stuff directly on the blog, because what can I add to this specific discussion that has not already been better said elsewhere? I retweet and promote other voices. To the extent I hear people shrug off terrorism as nothing more than a flame war, I try to correct their understanding. I try to let people who have actually *lived* the situation do the talking.
But regarding edtech — well, my own experiences seeing how voices are systematically supressed in communities informs almost everything I do in edtech. That could be in last week’s post about how the Kate Middleton Dress Fiasco relates to Wikipedia’s decline, but it’s also in my vision of a web designed to support iterative extension of knowledge and organic communities of practice.
This stuff happens because misogyny is real, and serious, and oppressive. But it is amplified through a web that knows that real, serious, opressive things drive page hits and deliver eyeballs. So that’s a piece I hope we can talk about as well — how did Vannevar Bush’s system of Associative Trails and Englebart’s Grocery List become this never-ending battle over who gets to hold the microphone and do the yelling? That’s where I see the greatest overlap with my work, and yes, one of the metrics of success is to what extent it creates a culture where Gamergate behavior can’t take root.
I know saying that puts me at risk of looking like I think GamerGate *is* just another flame war. That’s not the case. It’s merely the piece of the problem I happen to have some insight on.
For the rest of it, please listen to the voices of the people being attacked. This behavior is not a footnote to online interaction; it it is deep at the core of the thing, and deserves our attention.