Death of a civil nation?

In today’s Sunday Times Culture magazine, Bryan Appleyard poses the question Will the web be the death of civilisation? It’s a slightly meandering article, but there’s some food for thought on the qualities of anonymity and identity.

Appleward starts of by refreshingly acknowledging the ‘enormous interactivity – or “user-generated content”’ of Web 2.0. There-on in, much of the article quotes journalists and commenters who seem threatened by mass amateurisation, and who tar the ‘blogosphere’ with one huge brush as being journalistically parasitic, vitriolic and aggressive. Whether or not these thoughts are also Appleyard’s view, it does annoy me when so many of these biased, condescending and generalised opinions appear in mainstream media.

That said, as we know, some blogs are vitriolic and aggressive. These are easily avoided (unless you happen to be the target). But blog comments, including those on sites such as Digg, remain a problem. In his final paragraphs, Appleyard offers some sage advice for the future of the Web:

All western – not just scientific – wisdom is based on identity. Advocates and their critics can be identified and their ideas formally tested. [...] Freedom has its uses. I’m a blogger and I can say what I like. But, in the end, Web 2.0 will only be good for us if, somehow, it succeeds in evolving towards an identity-based discourse. All is else is mere anarchy.

The anonymity afforded by the Web is clearly vital, however identity is an important factor in order to have open, honest discussion.