It was an interesting read. If you are against voting within online systems as a Ux convention, what do you feel is a more useful mechanism for users to discriminate between high and poor quality content? The article was certainly thought provoking, although to be honest, I am immediately put-off when reading critiques such as this when the author decides to over-use emotive language. When this happens, it immediately reeks of subjectivity, which then leads the article to lose credibility for me.
I think it is a bit extreme to say that implementing voting promotes straight, white, male readership. If you take a look at the gender breakdown for other social media sites which employ analogous voting systems, this hypothesized causal relationship does not consistently occur.
In the article you reference, the author is attacking Reddit. However, according to the above data, the Reddit gender breakdown is 64% male 36% female, whereas Pinterest has the reverse skew, with 21% male and 79% female. It does not, therefore, seem that the inclusion of a simplistic voting system for content causes a certain type of readership.
Personally, I make use of the Stack Exchange platform quite extensively, and I find that they upvoted questions (not only answers) contribute to ensuring quality content on the site. When there is so large a collection of data, there needs to be a discriminatory mechanism to assist users in filtering out the less valuable content.
I feel that the author is misinterpreting the data by failing to consider that social networking sites are largely emergent, automatically fulfilling a purpose greater than that of its constituent parts. And so, if it is discovered that a specific site fulfills the needs of straight white males, then it does not necessarily mean that some racist authority deemed it so. It is simply a property of the emergent system. Similarly, with other social “ecosystems” such as Pinterest and others with differing demographics, just because they do not have a perfectly balanced representation from every demographic category, does not, in and of itself, imply that there is something fundamentally wrong with the emergent system, it is simply how it is, and usually there are good reasons.
To me, the author’s argument is similar to complaining that an online forum for gay rights has too many gay users and not enough straight users, and then attributing this “problem” to some arbitrary technical mechanism. The reason Reddit is used more by young, white males, is because it fulfills the needs of young, white males. Firstly finding fault with this, and secondly attributing causality in such an arbitrary fashion does not seem useful to me.
The author goes on to make the claim that: " You can vote up or down, but both choices reinforce the binary that directs and frames conversation a[ro]und topics that are already established as being of interest or concern to a white male readership." This should be of no surprise that the topics are of interest to white males, as the usership is primarily comprised of white males.
“The voting system is left as the proving ground for otherwise amorphous social phenomena”
- It seems bizarre to me that this should be a criticism in this age of wikipedia and the like, where the mechanisms are in place to allow for the system to be self governing.
:“Worse, the voting system itself reiterates the pervasive social mechanisms of control that perpetuate rape culture, producing new instances of psychic violence.”
- This seems rather extreme to me. He is basically saying that self-governance promotes a culture of rape and violence. My guess would be that the author would not have the same things to say about Wikipedia or Facebook. The reason, I assume, he has these things to say specifically about Reddit is because their user demographics is not aligned with his personal agenda, whatever that may be.
“Sites like Reddit will remain structurally incapable of producing non-hegemonic content because the “crowd” is still subject to structural oppression”
- The author here criticises Reddit for not producing non-hegemonic content. This is like criticizing an ant colony for not producing honey. It is not its nature nor purpose. The internet is a large place. If one is wanting non-hegemonic content, then do not look for it in places such as Reddit. In addition, shortly before this extract, he points out that in each sub-category of Reddit, there are only a few highly active users. It is therefore logical that the content of each of these sub-categories would more greatly reflect the mindsets of those active users than be representational of a global community. However, the author fails to make this connection, and instead places the resulting ‘non-hegemonic’ nature of the content squarely on the voting mechanism. Bizarre.
“Voting on social-media sites eventually unites and distills the user base to a small minority of like-minded content-producers who seek out story “candidates” with the terrible accuracy of a beltway pollster.”
- This is one of the useful things that the internet offers us; that we can create communities of like-minded individuals which are not limited by geographic location. To criticise this property of the internet seems unconstructive.
The author ends off by stating “When their communities die, let’s hope they die of apathy.”. I find this quite ironic, in an unfortunate and sad way.
Basically, what I am trying to point out with my comments on his article is that none of the data he presents implies the causal relationship between the voting mechanism and the user demographic. In statistics, the principle is that “Correlation does not imply Causality”.
One interesting point that he does make is his reference to the votes as being “decontextualized”. He mentions that by voting on a topic before a discussion has arisen results in “decontextualized votes”. Which basically means “worthless votes”. However, I feel that instead of the votes being without context, it is rather the case that the author fails to see the context. It is not that the votes provide insight into the as yet nonexistent conversation, but rather, serve a self-governing function of filtering topics which appeal to the specific sub-community (for which the sub-reddit exists) from those which do not.
If I think, once again, of my involvement in the StackExchange community. I would hate to use the site if the topics which appeared on the front page were globally representative. If this were the case, they would all be of a simplistic, technical-support nature. Rather, I enjoy the more deeply technical topics which appear on the front page when I visit the site. Thus, the site caters to an online community which is more technical in nature than most people. To criticize the site for this would be absurd.