Thursday, May 31, 2007

Chicago Tribune: A tale of two Allisons

Really, it's a tale of two webs.

Allison (Crowe) learned from a friend, (a fan in Seattle, Washington, I believe), that there was story in the venerable Chicago Tribune about Allison Stokke, a California athlete who's gained unwanted attention online. Alley's music-loving friend, a fellow Pearl Jammer, was reading the blog of the Trib's tech writer, Steve Johnson, and surprised to find another Allison therein...

Johnson's Hypertext column, titled "An Allison Stokke posting without any photos", considers the nature, good and bad, of the web community. It begins:

"There is the Internet we might want, and then there is the Internet we've got.

The one we've got is dominated by the id, and the male id at that. It turns Allison Stokke, a first-rank high-school athlete from California who happens to be extremely attractive, into a widespread lust object, to the point where her dad, a lawyer, searches for postings about his daughter to look for illegal acts or a potential stalker.

It started with a sports blog that realizes writing about sports isn't enough to draw an audience. So it also posts pictures of what are reductively called 'babes.' In Stokke, who is also an athlete and 18, it hit the jackpot.

A photo of her at a track meet -- she is a state champion pole-vaulter with a college scholarship -- went up on the blog and spread like, well, like photos of starlets who deliberately pose enticingly to further their careers as lust objects. Much of it was what the observers no doubt saw as harmless, puppy-dog stuff, but much of it was more explicit, in lewd comments on message boards and the like.

All of it is unfair to Stokke, who compellingly laid out her feelings of violation and objectification in a Washington Post story today. But the Internet we've got isn't particularly concerned about the human aspect of the images it drools over. Maybe reading about Stokke's plight will move at least some people to think twice before forwarding a photo or posting a panting remark.

The Internet we might want, meanwhile, is a vast repository of knowledge and a means of connecting disparate people and showing off great work. That one is out there, too, but it's sometimes hard to hear and see it beneath all the lewdness and the sniggering."

Then, Steve Johnson's Hypertext commentary turns things neatly on their head - with this:

"Here's an example of it that I came across today, from another Allison, Canadian singer-songwriter Crowe:"

For the original article, and further comment, visit the Chicago Tribune.

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