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Temporal vs Spatial Moderation

Rules systems for moderating debate have been around since antiquity. In live debate this has always meant moderating time. One team gets to speak for a period of time and then the other gets to speak for a set period of time. There are many variations on this theme but generally speaking each party gets an equal amount of time. The only variation is in the length of the time segments and who gets the almighty last word.

Time is scarce commodity in live debate so moderating live debate is almost entirely the business of regulating time. The web is different. There are no time constraints and the storage capacity when it comes to text might as well be infinite. The only scarce resource on the web is human attention. Dividing the resources of human attention is the single goal of online debate moderation. Dividing this resource comes down to answering questions like who gets to have their argument highest on the page? Who gets to be left most. Where to rebuttals go? Where to arguments that back of premises go?


April 8, 2008 at 7:40 pm Leave a comment

Frustrating observation by Lessig

Lawrence Lessig’s first video on corruption, his new area of study, has a line has been echoing through my head ever since I heard it. Here he is talking about presenting his ideas about copyright to congressmen:

What struck me was not that I was meeting congressmen who had a different view from mine. It was I was meeting congressmen who never even imagined there was another side to the story. So I would appear and make an argument and they were just befuddled because…Well, maybe because I wasn’t clear enough but maybe because they actually hadn’t ever contemplated the kind of points that were being made because never had the people making those points had the opportunity to appear in their office to talk to them about it….

You can find the line at 42:20 but I recommend the whole video, if only for context.

Congressmen deal in arguments. It’s their job. The information required to do their job comes in the form of arguments. Us working folk can just run a search to get half the information we need to do our jobs. Congressmen, however, have to read op-eds, listen to lobbyists and *shutter* watch talk shows to get the information they need to do their jobs. I actually kind of feel sorry for them.

February 25, 2008 at 9:59 pm Leave a comment


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