I had recently come to the view that my comments on this blog were receiving more attention than anything I might say in the chamber of the House of the Lords.
So I suppose I should be flattered that the debate I initiated in the Lords on young people and social networking sites should have got a full half-page of coverage in today’s Observer.
Catherine Bennett certainly seems to have got the measure of the effects of being in the Lords on some of my colleagues (I hope not me, but you never know ….) when she writes:
“Given what we now know about the human brain, it is clear that prolonged exposure to an unnatural environment like the House of Lords must have a damaging effect. If the ageing brain is artificially denied stimulation over a long period, it might lead to a condition almost indistinguishable from idiocy. The effects on communication have been documented for years. Now some leading neuro-scientists are suggesting that flashing lights and bells be fitted to go off regularly in the chamber, in order to induce in members something resembling an average attention span.”
She then weighs in to attack the comments of Baroness Susan Greenfield for her contribution to the debate analysing the impact of social networking and online phenomena like Twitter from her standpoint as a neuro-scientist. It is a fine polemic and yes the comments from Susan Greenfield were rather tangential to the purpose of my debate which was intended to explore whether more safeguards were needed to protect the interests of children and young people online.
However, the comments (and the whole debate can be read here) were of interest and do deserve some serious discussion. Twitter and Twittering seems a largely pointless exercise to many and as Catherine Bennett puts it:
“Twitter emphasises its desirability by being unfathomable to anyone a bit inflexible or busy who is neither a self-promoter nor an exhibitionist.”
Now I don’t feel that Susan Greenfield’s speech detracted from the rest of the debate – it is part of the way that the House of Lords operates that colleagues bring their various experiences and expertise to bear on the topics under discussion. And it certainly didn’t “hijack” the debate as Catherine Bennett suggests.
Catherine Bennett was kind enough to say that “The Lords are right to want to protect vulnerable users from exploitation and from the inadvertent creation of an indelible archive of social networking follies.” So, if that is so, and she wants to avoid the debate being hijacked, perhaps she might have devoted more than just three lines of her article to the rest of the debate and what she rightly regarded as its main substance.
Or perhaps I’m missing something ….