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  1. #1
    null Jonny's Avatar
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    Default The nature of forum communication

    As most of us are aware, communication comes in a variety of different forms, and is motivated by a variety of different desires. Reflecting upon some of the dialogue that has taken place within the forum, it seems as though there is a regular disconnect between sender and recipient, whether it be the fault of the former or the latter. The intention of this thread is to create a discussion about discussion, in the hopes of illuminating the nature of this potential disconnect and to explore the driving forces behind this place we all hold so dear.

    In line with the sprit of this thread, I'd like to mention my motivations in creating it:
    1. To inquire about the beliefs of others, in order to gain insight and refine my own beliefs.
    2. To modify the social environment to produce a better discourse / forum experience.
    3. To fulfill a basic human need to transfer information.
    4. To fulfill a basic human need to relate, socialize.

    I'd like to start by bringing up a topic which is very personal for me: argumentation. In it's purist form, it is meant to be a form of external, multi-person brainstorming aimed at reaching reasonable conclusions from a series of known facts. More commonly, it is thought of in terms of winning or losing, where individuals will pass judgments first, find supporting facts second, and rarely ask questions. I find this approach to be dissatisfying, unpleasant, and downright harmful to proper decision making. In the context of this forum, it isn't uncommon for discussions to deteriorate to the point of personal attacks, changing the intentions of communication - from: the transfer of information > to: the preservation of self worth.

    I am of the opinion that, while there may be differences in preference, there should rarely be a situation where both parties should have to "agree to disagree." With a reduction approach to argument, the source of all disagreement can be found to be either a difference in personal preference, or a disagreement about the validity of a particular fact (premise). In either case, rational men and women should be inclined to accept the utter truth of another's preference (no disagreement), and should look at the potential facts in terms of likelihoods and probability rather than right and wrong.

    Preferences which are themselves based upon other preferences and facts may be discussed (e.g. having a preference for exercise because you have a preference for health and facts would indicate that exercise leads to health), but very basic preferences need no justification other than there own existence. In the case of a difference of basic preferences, there is simply no reason for argument unless there is a belief that a particular basic preference might be in direct opposition to another basic, more important preference. Ex: Convincing a serial killer not to kill is futile unless you believe his preference for freedom, personal safety, etc. outweighs his preference for killing. There is no disagreement here, simply an acknowledgment of different preferences.

    Facts, for the most part, are themselves concrete and absolute (so long as they are framed correctly), and any discrepancy in our understanding of the facts should cause those involved to treat all potential truths with caution, rather than blindly believing in one truth and rejecting the other as fiction. If need be, the argument should be expanded to include an analysis of the facts, treating them more as a link in a chain than as the foundation upon which an argument is based. Often times the motives of the opposition are questioned (e.g. accusations that they wish to persuade through falsification of the facts), but in these instances a proper exploration of the facts should fully illuminate the truth, so long as one carries the primary motive of truth discovery.


    Anecdotal example:
    My girlfriend and former roommate were arguing about whether or not omission of the truth was a form of lying. My girlfriend was of the opinion that it was, as both lying and omitting the truth lead others to false beliefs. My roommate was of the belief that it wasn't, as lying forces misinformation upon another whereas omission of the truth only prevents the correction of false assumptions. They bickered back and forth for about 15 minutes, giving examples meant to support each of their beliefs. Eventually I intervened, suggesting that there argument had less to do with a definition, and more to do with a difference in feelings associated with each.

    I reminded them of the connotations that words carry, and suggested to them that what they really were attempting to do was associate the connotations of lying with omitting the truth (my girlfriend) and distance the connotations of lying from omitting the truth (my roommate). I went on to explain that, rather than convince each other of anything, they were simply informing each other of their preferences: my girlfriend of her displeasure with omission the truth, and my roommate of his relative apathy towards omission of the truth.

    Following this reduction and clarification, we then went on to discuss the potential benefits and costs of omitting the truth, independent of it's relation to outright lying. What would have once most probably ended with them agreeing to disagree, then became a fruitful discussion about the merits and follies of a common human activity. A fruitful discussion, ending in unity rather than disharmony.
    A few guidelines for good discussion:

    • Give others the benefit of the doubt.
    • Be skeptical, but not to the point of paranoia.
    • Be polite.
    • Be open minded.
    • Don't think in terms of right or wrong, better or worse.
    • Have your primary motivation be to learn, not self preservation.
    • Check your ego at the door.
    • Realize that it is much easier to criticize than come up with original ideas.
    • Ask questions, seek to clarify rather than persuade.
    • Listen, respond.



    What are your thoughts about communication?
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  2. #2
    & Badger, Ratty and Toad Mole's Avatar
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    Cool Literate and Electronic Discussion

    Quote Originally Posted by Jonnyboy View Post
    A few guidelines for good discussion...
    You have given us good guidelines for literate discussion. But look around you. The literate world of print has disappeared to be replaced by electronic communication - just like this, right under your nose.

    And you are right, good literate discussion is linear, sequential and connected, just like print itself.

    However electronic discussion, as you have already correctly noted, is disconnected, like touch and hearing.

    And naturally, having been compelled to go to school to learn to read write, you are nostalgic for the manners and mores of literacy, learnt by you at such personal expense.

    And so oblivious, you drive forward looking in the rear vision mirror of literacy, while the electronic world is rushing towards us through the windshield.

  3. #3
    Analytical Dreamer Coriolis's Avatar
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    To the OP: This is well-reasoned and well-presented. It should work in situations where the discussion transpires for its own sake, and no actions hinge upon it. Oftentimes, however, such a discussion relates directly to a pending decision or action. In these cases, the goal is not just to convince the other person, but to have the best course of action implemented, or even simply to avoid a disaster. My first reaction is to say, in such cases this approach can amount to unilateral disarmament. If the other person is unwilling to be open-minded, to be motivated to learn, to set aside their ego, to listen, and to respond to and to pose their own questions, it will not succeed. On the other hand, having both parties in a discussion exhibit poor behavior seems a poor alternative. Do you think your approach will work, even when the stakes are very real, and potentially high? How does one conduct a discussion using these guidelines, when the other person seems disinclined to play along?

  4. #4
    null Jonny's Avatar
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    Each situation is unique, and when brevity equates with self preservation, decisions must be made which do not allow for the full exploration of the facts. This is why we seek leaders with experience, because they are thought to have explored the facts and come to conclusions already, and quick and effective action is likely. Within the context of this forum, however, I think it is reasonable to assume that time is not of the essence.

    Also, my intentions weren't to lecture, but to open up the discussion. Feel free to focus on things other than argumentation.
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    null Jonny's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Victor View Post
    You have given us good guidelines for literate discussion. But look around you. The literate world of print has disappeared to be replaced by electronic communication - just like this, right under your nose.

    And you are right, good literate discussion is linear, sequential and connected, just like print itself.

    However electronic discussion, as you have already correctly noted, is disconnected, like touch and hearing.

    And naturally, having been compelled to go to school to learn to read write, you are nostalgic for the manners and mores of literacy, learnt by you at such personal expense.

    And so oblivious, you drive forward looking in the rear vision mirror of literacy, while the electronic world is rushing towards us through the windshield.
    Would you be willing to expand upon this notion of electronic discussion? It's motives, it's methods, it's similarities with and differences from traditional communication. Can these two forms coexist?
    [SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]

  6. #6
    & Badger, Ratty and Toad Mole's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jonnyboy View Post
    Would you be willing to expand upon this notion of electronic discussion? It's motives, it's methods, it's similarities with and differences from traditional communication. Can these two forms coexist?
    Of course they do co-exist. Look in front of you. Here we have print as the content of the electric medium, the internet.

    And just as theatre is the content of television, print is the content of electronic Central.

    Or we could say that the printing press of 1440 created the environment of literacy, while the electric telegraph of 1840 created the environment of the telephone, the radio, the television and the internet, the electronic media in short.

    However the content of any environment is the previous environment. So the content of the electronic media is print.

    It's like Russian dolls - one environment inside the other.

    But the most interesting thing is that the current environment is invisible and we only see the previous environments as contents of the current environment.

    Or the medium is the message.

  7. #7
    Senior Member LunarMoon's Avatar
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    I'd like to start by bringing up a topic which is very personal for me: argumentation. In it's purist form, it is meant to be a form of external, multi-person brainstorming aimed at reaching reasonable conclusions from a series of known facts. More commonly, it is thought of in terms of winning or losing, where individuals will pass judgments first, find supporting facts second, and rarely ask questions. I find this approach to be dissatisfying, unpleasant, and downright harmful to proper decision making. In the context of this forum, it isn't uncommon for discussions to deteriorate to the point of personal attacks, changing the intentions of communication - from: the transfer of information > to: the preservation of self worth.
    I disagree. I believe that argumentation, or rather debate, is the greatest sport there is. Other mental competitions, such as Chess or Go, are criticized for relying more on the ability to memorize actions than to truly measure skill. Argumentation doesn’t have such a handicap. The easy accessibility of information on the Internet relinquishes any benefit that the ability to regurgitate facts could bestow in the real world, while also allowing each opponent to truly reflect on the issue. A point can be responded to several days after it’s introduced, allowing it to be explored more deeply than it ever could outside of an Internet forum environment. I suggest that the purpose of argumentation should not be for practical benefit or decision making, which often does not exist in philosophical debates, but to test and improve each person’s mental abilities.

    As for the personal attacks that often occur in these environments, I see them as no different than the scuffles that may occur at a child’s Little League game. It’s unfortunate that people feel the need to pummel each other simply because the Seahawks lost but it doesn’t remove any value from the actual sport.

    I also believe that it’s completely acceptable for a person to argue a point that is not “logical” or that they don’t even personally believe in, simply to create an intellectual challenge. Again, the point isn’t to arrive at any objective truth.
    Surgeons replace one of your neurons with a microchip that duplicates its input-output functions. You feel and behave exactly as before. Then they replace a second one, and a third one, and so on, until more and more of your brain becomes silicon. Since each microchip does exactly what the neuron did, your behavior and memory never change. Do you even notice the difference? Does it feel like dying? Is some other conscious entity moving in with you?
    -Steven Pinker on the Ship of Theseus Paradox

  8. #8
    null Jonny's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LunarMoon View Post
    I disagree. I believe that argumentation, or rather debate, is the greatest sport there is. Other mental competitions, such as Chess or Go, are criticized for relying more on the ability to memorize actions than to truly measure skill. Argumentation doesn’t have such a handicap. The easy accessibility of information on the Internet relinquishes any benefit that the ability to regurgitate facts could bestow in the real world, while also allowing each opponent to truly reflect on the issue. A point can be responded to several days after it’s introduced, allowing it to be explored more deeply than it ever could outside of an Internet forum environment. I suggest that the purpose of argumentation should not be for practical benefit or decision making, which often does not exist in philosophical debates, but to test and improve each person’s mental abilities.

    As for the personal attacks that often occur in these environments, I see them as no different than the scuffles that may occur at a child’s Little League game. It’s unfortunate that people feel the need to pummel each other simply because the Seahawks lost but it doesn’t remove any value from the actual sport.

    I also believe that it’s completely acceptable for a person to argue a point that is not “logical” or that they don’t even personally believe in, simply to create an intellectual challenge. Again, the point isn’t to arrive at any objective truth.
    I can see the benefit of using argumentation as a method of mental exercise. In that instance, the intent of the communication is shifted from the transfer of information and learning to mental exercise and sport. However, I take issue with this sport being used in place of pure debate and when it is presented as a means to come to some sort of decision or achieve some sort of enlightenment. I guess it just doesn't sit well to think that a fallacious conclusion could be reached simply because someone has a better grasp of rhetoric.
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  9. #9
    Senior Member Survive & Stay Free's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jonnyboy View Post
    [/INDENT]A few guidelines for good discussion:

    • Give others the benefit of the doubt.
    • Be skeptical, but not to the point of paranoia.
    • Be polite.
    • Be open minded.
    • Don't think in terms of right or wrong, better or worse.
    • Have your primary motivation be to learn, not self preservation.
    • Check your ego at the door.
    • Realize that it is much easier to criticize than come up with original ideas.
    • Ask questions, seek to clarify rather than persuade.
    • Listen, respond.



    What are your thoughts about communication?
    One of my favourite topics, I've bolded what I think are two of the things I'd immediately want to discuss, it is easier to criticise, good point well made, although it doesnt mean its not worthwhile either, although I know you arent necessarily suggesting that and the other point, I dont see the sense in that, we exist in a world governed by right and wrong and I dont shrink from that. I dont think others should either.

  10. #10
    Administrator highlander's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jonnyboy View Post
    Reflecting upon some of the dialogue that has taken place within the forum, it seems as though there is a regular disconnect between sender and recipient, whether it be the fault of the former or the latter. The intention of this thread is to create a discussion about discussion, in the hopes of illuminating the nature of this potential disconnect and to explore the driving forces behind this place we all hold so dear.
    This happens a lot as you indicate. I think it's possible to use type to gain a better understanding of where you yourself are coming from and how that perspective may be different than others. That is, I think it is possible to attempt to apply type in these conflicts to help bridge understanding.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jonnyboy View Post
    [/INDENT]I'd like to start by bringing up a topic which is very personal for me: argumentation. In it's purist form, it is meant to be a form of external, multi-person brainstorming aimed at reaching reasonable conclusions from a series of known facts. More commonly, it is thought of in terms of winning or losing, where individuals will pass judgments first, find supporting facts second, and rarely ask questions. I find this approach to be dissatisfying, unpleasant, and downright harmful to proper decision making. In the context of this forum, it isn't uncommon for discussions to deteriorate to the point of personal attacks, changing the intentions of communication - from: the transfer of information > to: the preservation of self worth.
    I very much agree with you. I wonder if the personal attacks are as a result of someone getting angry or if it's a tactic that's used to attempt to "win" the argument. The thing is though you can't win an argument with someone by attacking them. "If you want honey, don't kick over the beehive" - Dale Carnagie

    Quote Originally Posted by Jonnyboy View Post
    I am of the opinion that, while there may be differences in preference, there should rarely be a situation where both parties should have to "agree to disagree." With a reduction approach to argument, the source of all disagreement can be found to be either a difference in personal preference, or a disagreement about the validity of a particular fact (premise). In either case, rational men and women should be inclined to accept the utter truth of another's preference (no disagreement), and should look at the potential facts in terms of likelihoods and probability rather than right and wrong.

    Preferences which are themselves based upon other preferences and facts may be discussed (e.g. having a preference for exercise because you have a preference for health and facts would indicate that exercise leads to health), but very basic preferences need no justification other than there own existence. In the case of a difference of basic preferences, there is simply no reason for argument unless there is a belief that a particular basic preference might be in direct opposition to another basic, more important preference. Ex: Convincing a serial killer not to kill is futile unless you believe his preference for freedom, personal safety, etc. outweighs his preference for killing. There is no disagreement here, simply an acknowledgment of different preferences.

    Facts, for the most part, are themselves concrete and absolute (so long as they are framed correctly), and any discrepancy in our understanding of the facts should cause those involved to treat all potential truths with caution, rather than blindly believing in one truth and rejecting the other as fiction. If need be, the argument should be expanded to include an analysis of the facts, treating them more as a link in a chain than as the foundation upon which an argument is based. Often times the motives of the opposition are questioned (e.g. accusations that they wish to persuade through falsification of the facts), but in these instances a proper exploration of the facts should fully illuminate the truth, so long as one carries the primary motive of truth discovery.
    I'm afraid I disagree with several of these points. I think it is very reasonable to agree to disagree.

    The core point that I disagree with is the reliance upon facts. I'm of the opinion that facts can be used in a variety of different ways to support one argument or another. It's what attorneys do all the time. In addition to questions with regards to their application, there are many things in this universe that can simply not be characterized or explained by facts.

    Let's take an example - When Bill Gates started Microsoft, I would imagine he had to go off of more than facts. He had to have vision, optimism, ideas, etc. If he relied upon facts, I'm sure he could have talked himself out of doing something so foolish as starting a business.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jonnyboy View Post
    [/INDENT]A few guidelines for good discussion:

    • Give others the benefit of the doubt.
    • Be skeptical, but not to the point of paranoia.
    • Be polite.
    • Be open minded.
    • Don't think in terms of right or wrong, better or worse.
    • Have your primary motivation be to learn, not self preservation.
    • Check your ego at the door.
    • Realize that it is much easier to criticize than come up with original ideas.
    • Ask questions, seek to clarify rather than persuade.
    • Listen, respond.

    What are your thoughts about communication?
    That's a pretty good list. Why not try and persuade though?

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