Discussion styles

A. Stewart (“Is debate or conversation the most useful form of public discourse “, via D. Pollard) and A. Gahran (“Smashing Heads Does Not Open Minds“) both argue against discussions that are mainly conducted like a battle (“clash of differing opinions”, “smashing heads”, “argument culture” and “debate”). It’s not incidentally that such thoughts are raised from the blogosphere. Blogs are less likely to host such battles, and in this respect they are pleasantly different from traditional mailing lists and forums.

On lists and forums, participants tend to behave more aggressively (resembling dogs who more likely bark at their peers when kept on the leash while crossing a square in the city). Maybe these forums must be regarded as a kind of neutral, contended “no man’s land” area, while blogs have their matters of ownership settled and can proceed to focus on the subject matters in question instead of focussing on persons of the contenders. On a neutral central place like a forum, the participants are “forced to ‘re-invent’ themselves in each new online context” and cannot transfer their “online persona from one context to the next” (J. Farmer who, however, uses the term “central” just the other way around). In forums, persons must strive harder to assert themselves, while in blogs the subject content’s focus is not challenged.

Forum discussions often give the impression of having to end up with a winner and a loser, or at least of a pressure to try to have the final say and not to lose face. Therefore, it is often difficult to scan through such forum threads, while in blogs you may simply stop reading the comments. (And therefore blog discussions have usually not so many steps, see my #56).

A. Stewart’s suggestion of a more dispassionate “conversation”, however, does not attract me either, since a topic is only interesting and motivating for me if I am not neutral but sympathise with either idea. Furthermore, it is cognitively easier to discern nonmatching patterns from matching ones rather than merely arbitrary a from b.

So, depending on ones’s preference and styles, blogs may have yet another big advantage over other discussion styles.


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One Response to Discussion styles

  1. Denham Grey says:

    Often meaning develops and minds change only when the ‘energy’ levels within a conversation are elevated. Creative abrasion leads to innovative insights – like a phase change in physics, it takes some latent energy to make the transition.

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