Posts Tagged ‘Ryan Jordan’

It is an old and tired thing to say that new media and things like wikis are fundamentally changing our ideas about authority.  But when I read the article on Wikipedia by Stacy Shiff, I was interested.  When I read the editor’s note, I was struck.  I was struck by not only how, in any setting other than an electronic one (and only some at that), what this 24 year old Ryan Jordan, a community manager for Wikia, did would be considered not only deceitful, but would be considered gross misrepresentation for a political end–to give credibility to Wikipedia.  I think I was surprised by the fact that I simply trusted the information that was given without thinking–an amateur mistake, but also one that a lot of people make, including the author of the story, until it later came out that this was not true.

This has gotten me thinking about the nature of deception and artificiality in the online world.  There is a whole lot of scholarship about what “creative representations of the self” can do for people, or how various media are changed by it, but I started wondering about the damage that could be done, and has been done, because the web is a place where two non-complimentary things are happening at the same time: people lie all the time about their identity and activities, and the environment and mode of use online makes many people simply accept what they see or read as true, without using any critical analysis of it.  Sure, there are some that are critical of what they read, but I suppose my point comes home here: how can we get by if there is simply no agreement or adherence to honesty of any kind?  for a very long time, the world has had social rules in place that kept the whole populace from being able to do what they want to.  In short, there were ways, even if they weren’t perfect, to hold people to their word. There are much fewer, if any, of those things in place online.

A new branch of philosophy could emerge here: the ethics of the Internet.  Do ethical decisions or dilemmas change when they occur online?  Should we treat online things the same way as non-online things?  Why?  The shock of reading that someone so blatantly lied about his identity and authority shocks me, and maybe that’s an indicator of how I view authority, but I for one, am not ready to abandon authoritarian structures for a new paradigm.  I’m not a good little Cultural Studies student; I think hierarchical structures are vital for the health of society, though the people who inhabit them often go bad and need to be replaced.

For whatever reason, I had a very strong reaction to the editor’s note and to Mr. Ryan Jordan’s deception, as well as to the appalling comments by Jimmy Wales, which is worse than the offense itself.  “I regard it as a pseudonym and I don’t really have a problem with it.”

This reader has a problem with it.

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