The cultural meanings of Israeli Tokbek (talk-back online commenting) and their relevance to the online democratic public sphere
by Gonen Dori-Hacohen; Nimrod Shavit
International Journal of Electronic Governance (IJEG), Vol. 6, No. 4, 2013

Abstract: Israeli journalistic websites have initiated a feature that became fairly universal: a section at the end of each article that allows readers to respond to the article and to each other. This feature is captured by the meta-communicative term 'tokbek', derived from the English phrase 'talk-back'. Although originally viewed as having the potential to promote civil participation, the tokbek soon became associated with pejorative cultural meanings that indicated its failure to do so. Drawing on the Ethnography of Communication, we provide an interpretative framework for an analysis of this failure. The main function of tokbek is the construction of the commenters' political identities, mainly as leftists and rightists. This oppositional construction takes the antagonistic form of a 'bashing ritual' that communicates radical pessimism about the possibility of political debate. Because sharing a virtual space does not necessarily facilitate deliberation, democratic culture should be explicitly addressed when discussing technological advancements.

Online publication date: Wed, 23-Apr-2014

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