Using technology to connect


Madam, – The views, as reported, of Helen Shaw and Mark Little (Home News, August 1th4) when discussing citizen journalism and new media need to be carefully scrutinised. So, well done to Declan Kiberd (Opinion, August 14th) then for injecting an element of reason and balance into the debate about internet use and the nature of participation on the web.

We know from research from Global Voices Online, Ethan Zuckerman, and others, that social media does not bring people and their stories together globally. Most online social media users are interested in only what is local and what likeminded people to them are up to.

Usability research by Jakob Nielsen reveals that widespread active participation on the web is a myth, with most signed-up people (more than 90 per cent) being “lurkers”. According to Technorati, some 95 per cent of blogs launched are now quickly abandoned.

An American Pew study showed that, in the last few years, blogging has declined by a factor of 50 per cent for 18-24 year olds. The Irish and US media concur.

A 2009 Harvard study showed that 90 per cent of Tweets come from 10 per cent of users. Most Twitter accounts quickly fall inactive, with 70 per cent of accounts being left idle within one month according to Nielsen research. Wikipedia has stalled and the Wikimedia Foundation has turned to actively recruiting contributors. There is plenty of other evidence to counter the triumph of hype over reality.

Indeed, the irony of a “bricks and mortar” Parnell Summer School discussing citizen journalism and new media without itself fostering serious internet participation or engagement will not be lost on some.

Ennui, issues with privacy, questions over content ownership, the morality of adding value to large for-profit corporations for free by way of crowdsourcing, the overzealous policing of content by moderators, boredom, and the increasingly hostile and toxic nature of comment on the web have taken their toll. As we have seen with the Larry Murphy case, perhaps we should be concerned as much about Little Brother as Big Brother.

What is needed is more discussion about the realities and implications of internet participation, based on fact and not aspiration. The Irish Times should continue to lead the way in this important debate with more articles on the subject from a wider audience of commentators. – Yours, etc,


South Circular Road,

Dublin 8.

Madam, – Declan Kiberd (Opinion, August 14th) challenges some of the received wisdoms concerning the impact of technology, particularly for younger generations.

Many of the online comments to the article were quick to deem his opinion heretical. In a country freshly wounded by the dangers of consensus thinking this is perhaps somewhat surprising. Certainly, while academics do need to be open to innovation, it is also their role to constantly inquire and critically evaluate the nature of developments. To see the world as it is, it may be good practice to occasionally pause and look around, rather than simply looking ahead unperturbed. – Yours, etc,


Business School,

Dublin City University,

Dublin 9.