Welcome to the Dark Side

In March of 2013, I submitted what would be the final camera-ready draft of my book Digital Outcasts. The book covered numerous case studies related to disability and technology, employing a tone I intended to be uplifting and instructional. It took me five years of research, two years of pitching to publishers, three months with a consultant to craft the proposal, three different acquisition editors, six months of writing, seven content reviewers, one editorial screening and three months of revisions.

Although a lot of people said (and wrote) very nice things about the book, the last thing on my mind was writing another one. When my publisher inquired about doing a revised edition, I let the question go unanswered. Writing books is hard work for smart people, let alone someone like me. I also had no shortage of doubts whether, given the unlikelihood of lightning striking twice, I could expect the outcome to be of sufficient quality.

Fast-forward two years, and I am now beginning the journey again. Only this time, my mission is to investigate the seedy unpleasantness of online behavior. It should come as no surprise that the anonymity of cyberspace can bring out the worst in people, with no evidence of shame, empathy or decorum for one’s fellow humans. I want to explore these weird modalities to better understand why and how these things happen, and to perhaps make sense of this emerging trend before any damage to our culture is cemented.

I invite you to join me on this path, but I can’t promise it won’t get messy.

2 comments:

  1. I’ve been online since 1991 (back then, before AOL and CompuServe and the rest, it was bulletin boards). And while I knew that I was basically anonymous, I also somehow recognized that it was still me, just in a much bigger world.

    And since then, as I watched the various changes take place (both in how we got online and what was available when we got there), I realized that some people never quite “got” it. They truly thought they were anonymous, and they completely forgot that the people reading whatever they posted were just that: people. Real people. People with feelings.

    These days, it seems that in most social media, people are more aware that there’s a real person behind that post or that tweet or that blog entry. But now there seem to be excuses as to why it’s ok to be rude or hateful (she’s famous, his father’s famous, whatever).

    I am excited to hear that you’re starting this trip, and I can’t wait to see the results.

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