I’m on the road with my family this week, in fact, sitting in Daniel Fusco’s living room right now, so this is largely undeveloped… for that I repent!
This week CNN.com highlighted a group called the World Wide Web Foundation that is seeking to answer the question of how many pages are on the internet. Their article referenced Kevin Kelly, a founder of Wired Magazine, who has written that there are at least a trillion web page.
The advent of the internet has made it possible for an exchange of ideas never before realized by man. Or perhaps not realized since Babel. An individual (such as myself) has a potential (vs. actual) audience that is incredibly large. In times past the cost of reaching such a mass of people with your idea or product was well out of reach to the average person. Today, if you’re not using the resources available (often freely) online, you’re wasting a great opportunity, and (as a Christian) I think you could make a good case that you’re not being a good steward of the potential.
The WWW Foundation estimates that only 30% of humanity currently has access to the resources of the internet. We’re quickly reaching a point, through wireless technology, where 90% of humanity will have the ability to access the internet. Al Gore must be proud that his baby is so revolutionizing the world.
While so many people can potentially access the web, there is still a major hurdle for many developing nations. Much of the available online content requires the ability to read and write. Furthermore, anyone interacting in discourse online is confronted with the reality that written discourse can be a difficult animal to tame. An exchange I was involved in this week has [for me] brought this clearly to the forefront once again.
As I considered this this week I’ve come to the conclusion that there are several things required to play (i.e. discourse) in this sphere of open, mass exchange of ideas. My list is still developing, perhaps you can help, so far I have four points.
If anything the internet has over and over proven that your/my idea ain’t the only idea on a subject. Therefore we must come to the table recognizing that our idea is one among a billion, and could very well be invalidated in the fee [two-way]
My dad, whom of course I love and respect greatly, has told me for many years now, “Son, opinions are like %$#-Holes, everybody has one.” Not the most refined truth, perhaps, but a truth nonetheless… and a good truth to keep in mind when discussing ideas with others. To demagogue an argument by aggressively forcing your position as the only logical or right view is not helpful, unless you have a watertight, incontestable position.
Rigidity is not helpful in discourse. Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be broken. Flexibility in discourse is evidenced by an individual’s willingness to argue from your opponents position; to stand in their shoes and consider their position from their point of view.
This honestly takes a humble spirit and a bit of work. We all come to a discussion with bias; we must recognize that we even have bias and then try to identify what our bias presuppositions and assumptions are. Like a good juror, we should try to leave our bias at the door and examine the evidence and testimony with as clear a mind as possible.
If you’ve truly come to the table with humble flexibility, then you must be willing to expand or change your position if it’s shown to be weak. A lack of teachability is an immediate check for me when raising up leaders within our church. A disciple is a learner, they must be teachable. Wisdom that is from above is peaceable and open to reason (James 3:17).
Two quick things under this heading.
First, you’ve got to come to a discourse with at least a little humor. One of my biggest weaknesses in online discourse is that I have a terribly dry sense of humor, which can easily come across harsh or condescendingly in written form. Knowing this about myself I try to assume this about others when they come across harsh or condescending. Love hopes all things, and I try to see the best in an individual.
Secondly, agreeing to disagree is sometimes a must. We must make allowances for disagreement.
* * * * * Post comment additions… * * * * *
Since there have been some good commented thoughts, I thought it right to add a few more points.
We may have to develop how these things workout… but hey, they’re all “ity” words.