Prof. Erik Ringmar (林瑞谷教授) was invited to give a lecture on“A Blogger’s Manifesto and You.” Prof. Erik Ringmar is currently a faculty of National Chiao-Tung University, Hsinchu. His new book, A Blogger’s Manifesto: Free Speech and Censorship in the Age of the Internet, makes prognostic critics on the current censorship practices on blogs and suggests a better mentality and good practices regarding issues of freedom of expression in different countries and under various contexts. The Chinese version of this book (部落客宣言) was published in early June by Socio (群學). Four active and famous bloggers – Jerry Cheng(鄭陸霖教授/中研院社會所), Jerome “Poiesis” Tseng (曾昭明/台灣社會企業責任協會秘書長), Debby Huang (黃淑珺(黃小黛)/崔媽媽基金會主任秘書), Portnoy Cheng(鄭國威/蒙藏基金會專案經理)- were also invited to share their experiences.
Prof. Ringmar believes that blogging is really an empowering and inspiring tool of the modern world. Nevertheless, blogging also challenges the belief, norms, and practices of freedom of speech. Erik pointed out that freedom of speech serves three functions: Membership that provides a sense of identity in a community as people interact and talk with one another, personal development through equal rights to speak, and the guardianship to keep the authorities accountable and checked by the society.
Traditionally, freedom of speech is performed, mediated, and protected by elite “gate keepers” such as politicians, journalists, scholars, etc. The gate keepers decide what is appropriate and what is not, and what can be reported and what cannot. As the world embraces internet, a totally different story begins. On the vast sea of information and internet, there are no such things as gate keepers. Blogging makes everyone be equally powerful in terms of freedom of speech. The gate keepers felt very uncomfortable as the rules of the game changed. As a result, blogging challenges the hypocrisy western society long established (on freedom of speech) and brings justice to freedom of speech once and for all. Erik suggested that many more changes and challenges are yet to come, and our attention is required to develop a more open-minded attitude and new norms to cope with the changing, blogging world.
Jerry Cheng echoed that blogging can bring more transparency to the world and empower those who are powerless in a hierarchical structure. Poiesis addressed the issue of anonymity in the internet. He observed that identity is important and people would discredit to some extent the information from anonymous sources. Debby suggested that blogging may go together with the daily life and offer new ways for family members or friends to talk to each other. Blogging also provides an insight look into the writer’s mind and his or her inner world such as relationships, emotions, and complex ideas. Portnoy raises the issue that blog owner is like a king who have total control of his/her own blog. Is this good for dialogue on the internet? Portnoy pointed out that those who make the loudest voice on the internet do not necessarily represent the majority. The opposite is often the case.
Erik concluded that freedom of speech does not mean that people could say ANYTHING they want. The question is to seek for new and balancing norms that work, and these rules and norms ought to be based on DECENCY and COMMON SENSE.
To view the lecture please visit:
2009.06.20 A Blogger’s Manifesto