Or maybe we do, it’s pretty hard to say. One of the projects of the National Institute for Civil Discourse will be to measure civility in the comment threads over at the Arizona Daily Star.
I’m pretty sure what they’re going to find; some comments are civil and the occasional comment is raunchy and offensive. Comments that violate the Star’s rules of acceptable standards are frequently removed.
It does seem to me that the denizens of the Star comment threads are a bit more excitable than what we see here at Citizen.com, but I may be prejudiced. At any rate, it’s probably best if we don’t expect too much cooly reasoned debate in a venue one function of which is to allow for blowing off steam.
I’ll be interested to see how the researchers measure civility. Will there be units of civility (Raunchies), applied according to some standard of measurement? Will we be able to say of some post, “That was uncivil to the four ‘Raunchie’ level?”
I think most people recognize when discourse becomes uncivil, and in the real world restrain themselves— from fear of public disapproval of behavior that is ill bred or boorish.
In the virtual world of comment threads there would probably be a major improvement in tone if every comment required the use of one’s real name. This could be assured by site management, which already knows the names of our commentators.