Saturday, April 20, 2013

The "Bayart Scale"

Benjamin Bayart (the "t" is mute, as in "Stephen Colbert") has directed French Data Network (FDN), the oldest Internet services provider still active in France from 1997 until about a month ago.

More than just a director, he's been an activist promoting civil liberties on the Internet as well as a vision of the network of networks that is faithful to its structure: a non-centered web where every node is equal to other nodes. You could call this "net neutrality" but the meaning of the phrase has drifted somewhat as a result of many countries' endeavor to restrict digital freedoms.

Anyhow... in his lectures (sorry guys! video is in French language) Bayart presented a scale describing the progression of Internet users from puny consumers to recognized community organizers. This scale is now rising to fame among bloggers and forummers as the "Bayart scale" and goes like this:
  1. The Buyer
  2. The Kikoolol
  3. The Reader
  4. The Grumbler
  5. The Commentator
  6. The Author
  7. The Community Leader

The Buyer

The buyer is a person who believes he/she bought the Internet. Therefore he/she demands answers to his/her every question and everything is owed to them. The buyer does not fathom that people who answer his questions are other people like him who dedicate time and efforts free of charge to help a fellow human being.

A 2nd variety of buyer uses the Internet to do online the same things that they used to do offline, like shopping groceries, buying train tickets, etc.

The Kikoolol

...from the French "kikou" which is a deformation of "coucou" (hello! hi! hey!) and LOL, which has become like a punctuation mark in the vocabulary of teenagers. The kikoolol emails PowerPoint presentations of either jokes or raunchy material to his friends and sends senseless messages to his friends over social networks.

The Reader

The reader shifts his reading habits from paperback newspapers towards online versions. The major paradigm shift is that the reader will access news from distinct sources and compare, which is a very rare behavior among readers of paperback editions. The reader will then attempt to make sense of the differences observed and start becoming critical on what information he's being fed.

The Grumbler

The grumbler may not have paid much attention to what he's read, but he insists on sharing his disagreement, possibly in capital letters and with a lot of exclamation marks. He doesn't care about rebuttals to his claims or answers that are offered to him. Which is why he certainly did not realize that many grumblers already offered similar complains right before him. The grumbler often dwells on generalist press websites.

The Commentator

The commentator is a natural evolution of the grumbler. On a forum, the grumbler will end up noticing people talking back to him. He will then be faced with people requiring him to give details about why he complains. They will offer him counter-arguments and sooner or later, the (ex-)grumbler will have to  engage in back-and-forth conversations. Some people will tell them why he's not allowed to use opinions as arguments, and they will provide sources to their claims and will request him to provide sources supporting his own claims. And someday, the grumbler will do the astounding (and tremendously difficult and painful) act of acknowledging his errors, thus becoming a commentator who participates in honest exchanges of arguments.

This level in the Bayart scale is a very stable one. Many people remain at this level for years or maybe for good.

The Author

The author is an evolution of the commentator who has developed a strong knowledge after reading and commentating, and a liking for sharing detailed ideas which might often go further than the initial articles he comments on.

The Community Leader

The community leader is an author who has developed connections with other authors and whose articles might be elaborations on top of other authors' articles aimed at engaging responses from a community of authors and commentators.

Benjamin Bayart, through this scale describes the empowerment of Internet users as citizens up to a stage of being dreadful citizens able to check the information they are being fed, able to reflect on this information, to share it, comment it, and exchange ideas with other similar citizens in order to understand the essence of the information they were offered.

He also compares this revolution of the Internet to the revolution of the printing press. Printing allowed the emergence of literacy, philosophy, the enlightenment and the exit of the Middle Ages. But where the printed press allowed the emergence of a civilization of readers, the Internet allows the emergence of a civilization of authors. He illustrates this fact by comparing the number of people who ever had any writing published in the paperback press and the number of people whose writings have been published on the Internet.

This blog is my emancipation from Commentator to Author. What about you? How far are you on the scale?

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