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The dangers of clipping March 16, 2007

Posted by Sarah in bloggers&blogging, internet, reflections.

I’ve been using ClipMarks (my clips here) to excerpt & link webpages on my various blogs for a little while.  This past week, I ran up against some unintended effects of this practice of excerpting.  I had posted a clip of a UK Guardian piece about having kids vs. remaining child free to my LiveJournal.  In selecting the parts of the piece to clip, I was very careful to be even-handed in the excerpts (I made sure to include parts where the author is addressing the merits/drawback of both choices).  And yet, many of my readers reacted very strongly (and negatively) based just on the excerpts.  (I ultimately clarified my motivations for posting the excerpt and explained why I had found it interesting here.)

What caused the strong reactions?  (Besides the fact that it is a very polarizing issue upon which I have friends who are strongly on both sides.)  Was it a lack of familiarity with the technology?  Or did I run up against an interesting by-product of these excerpting-and-reposting technologies – namely, the ability to (in this case, unwittingly) change the meaning of another person’s writing Clearly my readers’ perceptions of the article were shaped by the portions that I chose to include in my repost.

What are the dangers of these technologies?  What are the advantages?  How are they changing the meaning of authorship?



1. Jen - March 16, 2007

I’m hesitant to say it has much to do with the technology so much as the simple act of excerpting. Excerpting rarely reproduces an author’s full meaning faithfully, and that’s even more the case when an author takes a deliberately ambiguous/ambivalent rhetorical approach.

2. Wendy - March 16, 2007

I wasn’t really familiar with the technology, and so I didn’t realize you were excerpting; I thought you were reproducing something in its entirety. I didn’t have any strong reaction–certainly didn’t feel like you were judging anyone. But when I read the original, I did feel like it had a very different tone and/or message. So if this was something I felt strongly about, I might feel like you had excerpted parts to serve your “message” and made it appear like a whole.

3. Wendy - March 16, 2007

What I’m trying to get at is that if you’d excerpted in the way I’m more familiar with (“cut” in between paragraphs, or ellipses), I would have read it differently, understanding that you’d cut it for your purposes.

4. Silvermaple/Michelle - March 17, 2007

I wasn’t going to comment on this more in LJ (cause it’s actually not a big deal) but since you ask…

I think what got me going is that there wasn’t any context as to why you clipped and displayed that article nor why you chose to highlight the parts you did.

Yes, I could guess that *probably* you just meant “hey this is interesting to think about” but you didn’t *say* that…

…and I don’t know if it’s worth getting in to the article content itself. Suffice to say, even in its entirety the letter still seemed to me like childlessness-is-soooo-sad-don’t-dooo-it propaganda. But maybe not? But mother-in-law just used similar arguments on me during the recent bout of grandchildren pressuring? So I wasn’t sure? And you didn’t explain? So…confusion and squick?

Does that make sense? Context is everything…

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