CFP: Public Argument and Digital Media

Call for Papers: Special Issue of Argumentation and Advocacy on Public Argument and Digital Media

Almost ten years ago, bloggers spurred public argument about Trent Lott’s controversial toast to a retiring Strom Thurmond. Since then, digital intermediaries using a variety of forms–blogs, podcasts, wikis, photo and video, social networking sites, and microblogs–have influenced innumerable episodes of public deliberation. This special issue of Argumentation and Advocacy calls for submissions that investigate public argument occurring through digital media. We especially seek essays that probe how digital media produce novel argument forms and modes of advocacy, historical analysis of digitally-driven deliberative episodes, and critical approaches to transformations in the nature of public argument. Submissions should be completed by June 1, 2010, and will be competitively reviewed. The special issue will be guest edited by Damien Smith Pfister, and published under Argumentation and Advocacy’s new co-editorship of Catherine H. Palczewski and John Fritch.


“The Elusive Face of the Web Hater”

I was quoted in the Lincoln Journal-Star this past Sunday in a nice article by Micah Mertes on trolls and anonymity:

With few exceptions, Web sites adhere to the 1 percent rule. This is the principle that 1 percent of Web users create the content, 9 percent comment on it and everybody else just hangs out and observes.

“A somewhat predictable side effect of this ratio is that the 9 percent who comment must be impelled by some stronger motivation than the rest of the lurkers,” said Damien Smith Pfister, University of Nebraska-Lincoln assistant professor of communication studies. “When strong opinions collide in an anonymous forum, it’s not unusual for trolling and flaming and all the other nasty stuff we associate with the rough and tumble of the Web to happen. It should be noted, though, that sometimes these argumentative collisions can be productive.”

The anonymity, then, becomes a double-edged sword: It allows for immediate, honest, unhindered discussion, but it also opens the door for the kind of unchecked aggression that deters kinder conversation.