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September 06, 2007

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Mac

I've actually been trying to figure out what my angry triggers are recently, to see if there's any way of controlling them. I either need to learn to let things go and keep my eye on the ball or quit blogging. So far I've got:

1. I hate being lectured.
2. I hate when I perceive (correctly or no) that someone's trying to hide a personal agenda behind a declared principal.
3. I hate implied insults. I'd rather just have the actual insult.

A lot of times these phenomena might not even be real. It's more a problem of my sensing them and reacting to them. I can't control what anyone else writes, but I can control how I react, and I do have it within my power to at least put less nastiness out there. S.P. Mikowski, on her blog, argued for a need for conversations to be focused rather than nice, which makes sense to me. The recent dramaturg conversation, while not nice, was useful in the sense of being focused. Anyway, these are preliminary thoughts so far.

Zack Calhoon

I like Mac's approach.

Joshua James

I also agree with Mac, a focused, reasoned approach can work.

James

Yeah, Mac makes very good points. I mean…I’m not sure we really need to create a different approach to presenting issues or ideas in the blogosphere, and even if we came up with one, I don’t think it would last (someone writing something that will enrage another blogger is pretty much inevitable at some point).

Personally, as an addendum to the points Mac makes, there’s something about a blogger being dodgy or evasive that makes my molars grind…Mac coming up with very sensible and practical points to counter Scott’s original thesis about New York theatre-makers creating a nationwide aesthetic of leftist bigotry and Scott evading addressing them (preferring to dismiss many of the counter-arguments presented to him as personal attacks) is a perfect example of this.

Also, the use of “Hot Button” issues/topics to counter an argument usually makes me shut off. Bringing up the analogy of (say) racial segregation or the Holocaust to discuss the ethics of theatre blogging is a recent prime example of this.

Overall it’s the discretion of the blogger in question. Some bloggers don’t allow commenting, some do, but after review from the blogger, some (like you or me) allow anyone to comment (aside from robots wanting to sell me penis medicine). I actually don’t get a whole lot of commenting on my blog (there are currently 10 comments on my last entry, some of them by me, which is considered a large number on Jamespeak), and most of it is pretty polite. If that changes, then maybe I’ll have to consider setting ground rules for posting comments. But as of now, I see no reason to.

Scott Walters

I think thicker skins would be beneficial. So often the vitriol is triggered by a perceived personal insult or the felt need that a demographic needs to be defended. I've done it, and people have done it to me.

I actually don't mind the passion; what annoys me is when the larger principle is ignored in favor of hammering about a detail.

Scott Walters

I'd also say it would help if people could understand the concept of analogy, which is not one-to-one correspondence but rather specific points of contact.

Mac

A correction: I misspelled the name of the blogger I cited above. It's actually S.P. Miskowski, and her blog is at:

http://hickwithmasters.blogspot.com/

freeman

I think if we all had a bit more ice cream, we'd be so saturated by creamy, soft, cool goodness that we'd stop fighting.

I think this will also work in Iraq.

Joshua James

"God is in the details"

I don't even believe in God, but I do believe in details . . .

Tony

A general rule I try to use for myself is: Would I say this, if I was in the same room with the others in the conversation?

Mark

Generalizations should be avoided, whether they're about New Yorkers, Christians or academics.

Andrew

I think Tony's point is a good one. There's so much disinhibition that happens in blogging, as in e-mail--we lack the social cues that we would observe in person, or even on the phone. That's useful in that it allows people the freedom to explore and defend their ideas in a way they might feel unable to in person, but it also makes it a lot easier to get nasty. What's more, people tend to write comments the way they would say them, and unless you take the time to think about how the words will be perceived as words, without the inflection that you'd use if you said them, there's lots of room for misunderstanding. So a thicker skin helps in that regard, as does pausing a moment before clicking send or post.

Scott Walters

I like Tony's viewpoint as well. I think people can argue passionately over a beer and it is civil. But usually you wouldn't insult someone personally.

I also think that there is a difference between blogging and, say, writing a formal essay. In the latter, God is very much in the details, but in the former, God is in the main points. Blogging is about broad sweeps. Very few blog posts will stand up to a close reading, which is why we don't insist on footnotes in order to track evidence. I think the insistence on supporting data for every contentious statement takes the discussion into the realm of minutiae.

Joshua James

Right, but um . . . logic and reason is about stacking up small facts so that they add up to a larger truth.

If stated larger truth has little to no foundation in fact, then ergo it's not a larger truth . . .

"Blogging is about broad sweeps"

This is a generalization itself, is it not?

Blogs are many things. Some hold up to tight scrutiny, some do not.

In reality, Blogging is whatever it wants to be, be it broad sweeps or analytical detail . . . and it's actually besides the point.

The question isn't really about blogging, per se, but how a specific bloggers can dialogue about theatre in a more constructive, focused way . . .

For me, a healthier way of dialogue is beginning with the shared established truths before we go into metaphorical or analogistical ones . . .

And I would also state that, in the interest of ethical parity, if one is going to state something radically contentious, they should back it up with supporting data, at least if they want to be taken seriously . . .

It's one thing to say, "THE KNICKS SUCK" - that's a matter of opinion, of course . . . but it one says "THE KNICKS SUCK BECAUSE THEY DO TOO MUCH COCAINE" is not an opinion but an asserted fact, an inflamatory statement that best be backed up by evidence . . . otherwise it's irresponsible.

Tom Loughlin

Funny - I do not see blogging as a discussion medium. I ask people to register on my blog, because I take the act of registering as an indication that some effort is being made to be upfront and responsible. But I tend to see the writing on blogs as an opportunity to look into the minds of some very interesting people. I don't view the fact that because they blogged something it's now my responsibility to take issue with it. If I find something that causes me to ponder an issue, I will use that to create my own post on the subject.

Some stuff I also find to be none of my business. The whole Hunka fracas is an example of that. It's none of my business what George chooses to do and write about in his daily life and blog so long as he's not causing personal physical injury to people or engaging in hate speech. I like to read blogs because I find them a source of news about current trends in theatre and a source of interesting, diverse viewpoints different from mine.

And of course, maybe it's a generational thing with me. In the era of print I never had any expectation that I would get the opportunity to actually comment on someone's essay or newspaper column. You read the column, and perhaps discussed it with any of your friends who might have read the same column, but that was that. There was no expectation that you'd actually get to talk to the author. Blogging makes direct contact with the author not only possible, but expected. Perhaps, like in the kindergarden playground, we really haven't yet come to a mature understand of the rules. Blogging is a new form of communication which perhaps has to have this "wild west" period before civilization will set in. -twl

freeman

I don't understand why my ice cream idea has been so quickly dismissed.

Joshua James

I'm not a big fan of ice-cream, but a steaming plate of nacho's with melted cheese, jalapeno's and spiced sausage makes me feel all gooey inside . . .

Scott Walters

I thought we had already agreed on the ice cream. I mean, duh!

Joshua -- there are rich traditions of inductive and deductive reasoning. The former starts with details and forms a theory, the latter starts with the theory. Obviously, I am a fan of the latter.

devilvet

Too often the comment section is used as an attempt to make the actual poster rescind their statement or apologize for hurting the reader's feelings. If you feel strongly enough about an issue that your post is getting long or combative, consider blogging on your own blog. Rather than trying to make the blog owner say "uncle" on their own site (which is most likely not going to happen).

Mark

I'm not averse to deductive reasoning, but a little inquiry never hurt. We're back on an old subject, but I have something nice to say.

Recently (or somewhat recently), I have seen several performances of plays by theater bloggers, including Mac Rogers' Hail Satan, Matthew Freeman's An Interview With the Author, Isaac Butler's volume of smoke (by Clay Macleod Chapman), Adam Syzmkowicz's Susan Gets Some Play and George Hunka's In Public.

In addition to operating at an extremely high level of craft, these works were inspiring and inclusive. I'm sure that when reading my opinion here (this is to Scott), you are "considering the source", but I wonder if you had seen these productions how they would have impacted your ideas about the sort of work generated by this community.

Ian

Maybe ya'll just need to be a little less American.

Ok – that's a catty way of saying that from the holy mountain of Canada (joke), it sometimes seems like Americans spend a lot of time yelling at each other. Frankly, I often admire it. Canadian culture tends to be a little less individually sure about our ideas – and we're thusly a little less likely to think the other guy or gal is wrong. It's a blessing. It's a curse.

Do you think there's something "fundamentally American" about the tone of these flame wars?

Most respectfully,

A comedically challenged Canadian.

Joshua James

"Joshua -- there are rich traditions of inductive and deductive reasoning. The former starts with details and forms a theory, the latter starts with the theory. Obviously, I am a fan of the latter."

I don't have a problem beginning with theory, I only take issue when any person asserts as fact that which is obviously not . . .

. . . and then actively resists or evades evidence to the contrary when presented, if it doesn't fit with the theory said person has already decided upon.

I don't find that to be productive or constructive.

I don't think many people do.

But again, we're nattering over whether one theory is better than the other . . . and that's not what we should be talking about, it's really about communicating, right?

I say, if someone states an inflammatory assertive fact (like, for example, the Knicks suck because they molest collies) they need to back it up and be accountable for what they said.

There's a difference between doing that and trying out a theory to see if it has legs.

Really Scott, with all due respect to you as a person, I have great difficulty communicating with you on anything . . .

. . . I don't believe I'm the only one, but that's neither here nor there . . . as such, I don't know that it's conducive for me or Isaac's blog to keep exchanging comments with you . . .

I don't say that as a way of picking a fight with you, Buddha knows I've had enough of that, just that there doesn't seem to be a productive end to this, we'll keep going in this circle . . . so I respectfully back out and will read with interest what everyone has to say.

Mac

Ian, I'm afraid I don't have much international correspondence for comparison's sake. Embarrassingly, I hadn't processed that you're Canadian. I get the sense that Australian bloggers get into it about as much as American bloggers do, but otherwise I don't have enough contact with folks from around the world to tell...

... other than, of course, my close encounter with the Japanese!

http://slowlearner.typepad.com/weblog/2004/07/apologythe_deat.html

(As a bonus for Devilvet, that's me saying uncle on my own site.)

Ian

Hi Mac,

That Japanese story is funny. Hey – if humour doesn't translate . . . maybe arguments don't either.

I've actually had some fun conversations with friends about the "American style of argument" – mostly informed and inspired by sitting in on these heated theater blog discussions.

One theory that keeps coming up is that the U.S. was founded on a particularly individualist note (its what gives you your right to bear arms – i.e., "don't get between me and mine.") that has never really left the public conscious. And why should it have?

In Canada we have a very public and somewhat tiresome quest to locate "the Canadian Identity." [Cue earnest-sounding orchestral swell.] The tone of "our" arguments at their best is polite and productive, at their worst painfully and counter-productively diplomatic.

Broad strokes here, of course, but there seems to be something in it: American bloggers perform the "American argument identity" – a fact that is, perhaps, only relevant if you are not American, and watching it from the outside.

Max Ehrmann

From Desiderata

As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

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