Engagement is everything, a dialogue

8 thoughts on “Engagement is everything, a dialogue”

  1. dude
    First step in not coming off as a douche, is by carefully choosing the words you choose to use, something I mentioned to you before (in facebook and in other circumstance).

    One of the biases of this media is the requirement for self promotion, this in turn often leads to provocative language, the problem can be exasperated further by limit imposed by platforms.

    Now provocation is often a good thing, but it is also too easy, civility is key. Netiquette should be expanded.

    1. True, language is a key aspect of things, and my choice of words was key here. But while I might regret some of the language, I don’t necessarily regret the outcome of this exchange.

      Civility and netiquette are both nice words but you are implying they are universal while really they are not. They are culture and even context based. Now one of the things that makes the internet so great is the fact it can so easily manipulate the context. In that sense can you really talk of civility and netiquette as these ubiquitous principles.

      I am trying to raise a concern here about the carefulness that we’re required to here. If we are required to be so careful and take all possible contexts into account while engaging and attaching our identity to this engagement, then we are raising the cost of critical engagement to a level that makes it too expensive to bother with. Which in result leads to no engagement at all, or non-committing/insincere engagement behind disposable pseudonyms.

      Yes, let’s all extend our online read/write literacy, but if we’re too afraid to practice (and possibly fail) how will we ever make better?

      1. Physical encounters, or even phone calls are far more expensive in terms of time and commitment you have to invest, and yet they are not going away and people seem to use them often. expense in this case often seems to be inversely proportional to the amount you generally care to invest with said people. Further more, in most cases, especially with physical encounters, etiquette is generally agreed upon pretty quick, and i would hazard to say that encounters with people who belong to that global connected populace it is fairly easy to establish grounds of civil discourse fairly quick, even from different cultural backgrounds.

        It follows that the carelessness with which we engage in our online interactions has to do with the diminishing investment we exert to establish them. This is not new either, consider the quick fashion in which people change their behavior while driving, some of it has to do with the stress of dealing with speed and machine (which might apply to computers) and a large part of it is due to the fact that the driver operates in an isolated metal box (surely applies to most engagement online) .

        The fact of it is we are rarely careful at all because the social consequences are nearly null, at most they get you banned.

        This kind of reminds me of http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SRqu_KyXygQ

  2. Thanks for unpacking this all, Mushon. I think it’s brave, and that it serves as a useful case study of how one slippage in meaning sets the whole train of communication up for failure.

    In thinking back, I can tell you this: What initially upset me was being placed, by an Israeli, on a list of “adversaries” the only other members of whom were Israel-related political entities I detest. I’m not sure I would have reacted nearly the same way if you’d used your current rubric of “challenge-me,” or if there’d at least been a more diverse spread of voices on the list that those representing the Israeli right.

    I guess what shocked me is that I’ve steered well clear of ever making any public comment on Israeli politics, I/P issues, or the notion of the “Jewish lobby.” So finding myself on a (small!) list of people alongside people representing causes that are anathema to me, put there by someone who presumably knows what he’s talking about, was startling. Startling to say the least; “distasteful and distressing,” as I said.

    From there, things went pretty rapidly off-piste, as your image of me as some kind of techno-utopian emerged in our 140-character exchanges. That’s a position I’ve always strongly and explicitly attacked, so to find my work characterized that way (by someone who was teaching it!) made me feel like a complete failure at this game we call communication.

    And that raised a concern that’s been nagging at me in one way or another for just about three years now. You should know that the “Don’t Get Me Wrong” piece is only in very small part directed at you. Spurred by our exchange, yes, but ultimately about a titanically wrongheaded piece with the flamebait title “Is Adam Greenfield A Communist?”, posted in the wake of a talk I gave in Amsterdam a few years back, by someone who manifestly didn’t understand a word of it.

    This piece in itself wouldn’t have been much of an issue, but it was picked up and reposted verbatim by an idiot who runs a much higher-profile linkblog, and who clearly should have known better. Point is, by the time I even found my name on your list, I was already sensitive to having my positions (and especially my political beliefs) mischaracterized. As I’ve mentioned, I never, ever mind being disagreed with, even strongly…but I do prefer that the disagreements, when made in public, be with positions I’ve actually advocated.

    And the irony running underneath all of this is that, as far as I can tell, I hold and have always held positions you’d find sympathetic: politically, in terms of our feelings about technology, and particularly as regards the shortcomings of social networking systems. We’re in complete agreement, for example, that social networking systems without some mechanism for expressing antagonism fail to capture something essential to robust human interaction.

    (“That was antagonistic?”, by the way, was my surprise at having what I experienced as a rather gentle interaction be so labeled.)

    At any rate: I applaud, and have always applauded, your wanting to set up a collection of voices to challenge your own habitual positions. I think it speaks well to your confidence and intellectual integrity. I’m just surprised to have found my poor self upon it — especially in light of what turns out to be a fairly significant overlap in our expressed belief.

    1. So you’re not a communist?
      Oh… hmm… really?

      Thanks for posting your perspective on these things. I was about to make a larger list of twitter users to follow, the fact you saw this list in its early stages was a bad coincidence. As you’re describing it here I can definitely see how “distasteful and distressing” it looked from your perspective. This list was indeed a failed attempt, and I have decided to delete it.

      As you said “I’m not sure I would have reacted nearly the same way if you’d used your current rubric…”. I am trying to think how should I be taking this. While I do regret distressing you, I don’t regret engaging you, and I hope/believe you don’t regret it either.

      In this information overload, our basic mode is sifting the signal through the noise and choosing ignore / ignore / ignore / ignore / inspect / ignore / ignore… It benefits the provocations (both the intentional and the unintentional) and feeds the simplifications and misunderstandings.

      We achieved a much more cohesive conversation here, I have learned from it a lot about how I construct my message and how it is perceived, I hope you have to. Yet I wonder, if I was more elegant and careful in my choice of words, would this engagement even happen in the first place? I’m not so sure.

      I am not trying to justify cheap provocations, quite the contrary. But I’m afraid our social media tools benefit them. I find it alarming.

  3. Biella Colman addressed a different issue, but i find this comment by her pretty bang on in this case.

    “…in fact the rant is valuable to an anthropologist interested in digital media because it is an auto-ethnographic snapshot of web 2.0 punditry culture. It often comes across as smarmy and snarky, which is due in part, to how difficult it is to get your message heard in the sea of many voices. Just like there is an aesthetic of audaciousness in a lot of Internet memeology”

    I am troubled by this aesthetic, I find it rarely helpful,this occasion was a good example where actually worked, as it relied on your ability (Mushon) to change tact when you encountered new facts, which is an admirable trait.

    Nevertheless, internet echo chambers seem to breed hostility at an alarming rate, it might be useless instinct or sentiment on my part, but i feel it is a losing strategy to engage in escalating provocations, a practice all too common on the web, and bleeding to meatspace as well.

    Social media is a often conduit to allot of hate, and personally i feel the more opaque the interface, the more polished and removed the interaction is, the easier the surrender becomes.

  4. Mushon – according to Dunbar, handling >500 contacts is a cognitive shift. Lists (think “Likes”) may be a good way to handle contacts beyond that point. You created an “adversaries” list (ouch! for many it’s not just a word, you know) based on a theoretical critique of social networks. But what if it so happens that anyone who expands a social circle beyond 500 MUST include people with conflicting opinions? Not just social critics.

    I just crossed 500 followers, and found myself preparing a a somewhat similar list – contacts who are easily offended. When I post potentially offensive stuff, I tell Facebook to hide my post from the Vanilla list. Unlike Twitter, Facebook doesn’t tell them that they are on my “Vanilla” list. Yet.

    I just wrote a post about Dunbar and social network size. Might be of interest:

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