Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Tempers, Temperatures and Temper Tantrums

Today's Wikipedia's featured article is global warming, an article I've tried to edit in the past and gave up after receiving unkind commentary on my changes, some of it deserved and some not. Skimming the talk pages reveals this is not unusual--nasty words have been exchanged by both sides of the argument. The whole thing is not unlike Jason and Tim's argument this past week. Just read it and you'll see as much heat as light.

When I was in college, I read Bowling Alone by Robert Putnam, which argues people are spending more and more time alone thanks to certain of technology, such as television and the computer. Putnam agrues Internet interaction is a poor substitute for real human interaction. I don't agree, but one thing is for sure is it makes it a lot easier to be nasty. Any online forum (blogs, Wikipedia, discussion boards, etc) is prone to parties simply throwing rants and temper tantrums, barely reading what the other has to say. Part of this is because we are only thinking of our counterpart in the abstract; we just don't know him. Part of this comes from talking to our agreeing friends about such issues, so we are more prone to repeat the less diplomatic agruments we make to each other. Part of it is because we talk in paragraphs, which end up becoming speechs for ourselves. I'm sure there are other reasons.

In being a better advocate for liberty, I think it's worth learning how to tone down our arguments and make shorter, cleaner claims. For example, it's amazing how much more likely people will pay attention to what you write if you show some patience and acknowledge some points the other side made. It's something we all need work at.

1 comment:

Tim said...

David, I think you're very right about this. Conversions don't seem to happen too often online - you're not going to change opinions readily. Much more productive to do it naturally, i.e. without trying or forcing the issue, over a few beers, bowling, whatever.