Since its introduction the Internet was always envisioned to offer us the potential for something more by connecting users together. Today many wonder if that promise can be achieved. As people with varied and diverse worldviews come together online we have also increasingly witnessed incidents of Internet rage. This raises the question as to whether the Internet is in fact a useful space for dialogue and deliberation. Is the sort of free exploration afforded to users of platforms such as Reddit enough to balance the kinds of unacceptable hate speech and cyberviolence which we also witness online? Is it desirable or even possible to legislate civility and decency online? According to Palfrey and Gasser in their book Born Digital, no generation has yet lived from cradle to grave immersed in digital technologies. This may therefore increase our responsibilities regarding the digital spaces that we have created and leave as our legacy to future generations.
Andrew Maclean is currently an MA student in the department of Sociology at Concordia University. His research focuses on intersections of individuals, technologies and practice, and specifically how these transpire in digital spaces. He is currently interested in the emerging risks in online governance reflecting capitalistic imperatives and how these both enable and constrain the emergence of freedoms of speech and expression online.
Shanly Dixon is a scholar and educator who employs ethnographic and arts based methodologies to investigate young people’s engagement with digital culture. She is currently working on a project with the Atwater Library and Computer Centre, funded by Status of Women Canada entitled, “Helping Communities Respond: Preventing and Eliminating Cyberviolence Directed at Girls and Young Women".
Linda Overing is a PhD Candidate, Education, at Concordia University. Her area of research is Comparative and International Education, and focuses on Language, Education and Development. She has worked as a consultant in Namibia, Southern Africa, exploring barriers to health and safety compliance within the extractive industry, which has contributed to her research concerning the impacts of English medium of instruction on development. Linda has moderated a variety of USC conversations since 2012.