Challenge, not bash

Keeping in mind the readings on marginalia and annotations, and thinking more generally about the life of text online, should audiences be allowed to interact with and shape the text? Does a writer have the right to define who can comment? Should audiences be limited in their online socialization over a text?

I believe that the form of annotation and online commenting are just another technological spin on what we used to call highlighting and taking notes. It is also a spin of social interaction over a text; like the one we used to have when we lend our friends our textbooks with scribbles all over it. But now, the interaction is more effective and can go both ways; people who access our annotation will be able to reply and we will be able to see it, unlike before. Well, unless you want your friends to also scribble all over your book and you want to take more time to actually find out what and where they are writing their comments on.

The thing about marginalia and annotation is tricky; a writer might have some disagreement over what people are “saying” around his writing and now he has a way to know that. But that does not mean that they have the right to define who can comment. Essentially, whatever you chose to publish online is public and is deemed to be discovered and talked about to certain extent. Taking it offline, it’s the same as you telling your story to your relatives. It’s out in the public and they have the right to judge you. You just sometimes don’t know what their judgements are. Furthermore, even if people can’t comment and/ annotate, they still have other platforms or even dark social to share their opinion about the text.

By limiting online socialization over a text is basically asking certain audiences to agree to whatever information they are reading and that what they are saying should be no more important that what’s in the text. In reality, I’ve seen more insights given in the annotation section rather than the actual text itself.

So, how should we do this?

As a social and educated being, we should understand that we are entitled to our opinion, but to certain extent. Our opinion should be unbiased, challenged, well-informed. We should always keep in mind that a text we are reading is carefully curated and well-researched, that our opinion should challenge them, not bash them.

As for the writer; it is always good to gain broader scope on the stuffs we post online. We might have research and polish our text to mere perfection, but there’s always a slight chance that someone or some people out there know more and could give better insight and understanding. Furthermore, it is always nice to know what other people think about certain issue we are discussing, whether their opinion might be favourable or not. It is a learning curve.


One Reply to “Challenge, not bash”

  1. You make some good points in your blog, Aleena. I agree with you that we need to challenge writers, not “bash” them. But I don’t think everything we read online is, as you say, “carefully curated and well-researched”. There are too many mediocre space-fillers and clickbait articles that regurgitate information from other online sources and that lack research, originality or even good grammar. Facilitating feedback, by way of annotations and/or comments, is a form of peer review that can inform the writer and even educate them. It is true that comments are often used for hate-speech and that is problematic, but online comments sections and plug-ins like were created to facilitate healthy debate and people need to remember that before spewing venom on a writer who doesn’t agree with their point of view.

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