I read your article in today's Guardian - To describe online discussion as a 'burble of banalities' is unfair - with interest.
Worrying about the state of the UK's youth, Jackie Ashley asks: "Where is the narrative in a life reduced to a never-ending stream of bite-sized thoughts?"
Worrying about developments here in Indonesia, this has been the focus of several of my recent posts,
You, however, disagree with her and suggest that "the web has democratised comment and given young people a much-needed voice." I can't disagree, but then I'm looking from the perspective of a country which has only had a 'free press' for the past ten years. Independent thinkers have been exiled and/or imprisoned until recently, and there have been signs that the political élite aren't yet ready to adjust.
However, the essence of democracy is very much the right to be banal. I also believe that young people are being reduced to banality, which I take to be the paucity of analytical thinking and the ability for creative thought, by the results orientation of schooling - computerised multi-choice tests being the obvious manifestation.
I would also take issue with you on one point you make. Please do not lump blogs in with comments and updates. Look around the web and you will discover that far from saying you've kissed the cat and hit the boyfriend, many, if not most, blogs nowadays are carefully wrought pieces of writing. often with a particular focus, e.g. Diamond Geezer on London and my blog, the observations of an expat living in Jakarta. Both of us have a greater number of subscribers than visitors online, which is an indication of the 'value' of our muses.
The "impassioned debate" you applaud does not come from an instantaneous sound or word byte. They are merely associations of the 'my father knew Lloyd George' variety. Debates of any value generally start with reasoned arguments which emerge after a period of gestation. What you are probably referring to are arguments which can spring up at a moment's notice and are rarely not impassioned.
I can't see that instantaneous, rather than contemplative, responses have much value, let alone rationale, especially when they intrude into more 'social' activities, such as personal interaction on a face-to-face basis. This suggests that the 'rules' you mention, but don't outline, have yet to be defined. Perhaps this could be a suitable topic for your next article.
If you do consider writing this, you may find that you agree with Jackie Ashley. Indeed, perhaps she should join you in framing the rules for digital discourse as it would certainly be fascinating to see how much in sync you two undoubtedly are.
Jakartass ..................... Postscript
Richard has commented on my open letter on his blog.
Incidentally, he is thinking of writing a book on the "de facto and understood" rules of digital dialogue.
That will either be very short, or encompass an assault on corporatism, an indictment of the schools curricula, seemingly based in both the UK and in Indonesia on management practices, and an analysis of changing communications technology.
I dread to imagine a world wherein we're given a brain implant at birth so we can telepath our mindless babel.