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Posts Tagged ‘arguments’

It is exceptionally easy to destroy things, it is a lot harder to create. One of the things that used to annoy me about the post-modernist movement I had to study as part of my Arts degree, was how so very ready it was to destroy other theories, and yet provide nothing in its place – like knocking down a building and then standing back proudly looking at the rubble.

When you really got down to it though they’d usually knocked down a fake version they had erected in its place – with weaker foundations. There are lots of fancy terms you can use to explain the fake building – for example it may have been an ad hominem argument (attacking the person instead of the argument), or a straw-man (setting up a weaker version of a stronger theory then attacking the weaker one and claiming you’ve destroyed the stronger one). The problem is the person still standing there shouting to anyone who will listen “look what I destroyed, look how very great I am that I have taken down this strong monument!”

And that is the point – they do not have the ability or talent or desire to create something themselves, or at the very least to create something in place of the rubble they think they’ve now put in the place of the building.

There is value in attacking a weak or bad argument – definitely, don’t get me wrong. There is surely a place for strong clear reasoning that reveals flaws in an argument – it helps strengthen the building instead with its corrections, or it shows how we might proceed to find the right answers. If someone has attempted a proper argument and you can show them where their reasoning has fallen foul – and you know they are adult enough to listen, learn and respond – then you’re both doing well out of it: They have shown you how to strengthen or clarify your argument and you have shown them where they have gone wrong. But again – the strong and worthy attacks are the ones which inevitably seem to show a way forward – a way to progress to an improvement and truth. Which reinforces what I’m trying to say here: If you must destroy, make some effort to in turn create or shine some light on the better way forward. Which brings us to griefers and trolls.

Griefers and blog trolls exist to destroy or ruin other people’s creations. When you’re trying to build something in a sandpit and someone cages you – sending you flying, unable to progress with your project, or when you’ve written a well-thought out post and the best someone offers up to counter it is “you’re a bitch”, we need to understand what they are actually achieving.

I’ve heard the arguments pro the trolls which go along the lines of “freedom of speech” and “hearing all sides of an argument” and “non-censorship”. But giving them space to purely destroy – without coherent argument or any suggestions for improvement – only destroys the spirit of the writer. It detracts their attention from dealing with meaningful discussion and creating new interesting (improved) posts. There is no value in loud screams of “you’re a self-centred moronic cow!”, and even less value in replying to them. In the meantime allowing such comments through lowers the tone of the blog and encourages the troll due to the attention it gets them. I’ve struggled with deciding whether to let troll comments through or not, which is part of the motivation behind this post, but for the reasons I’ve given so far it’s less of a struggle for me now – after some reflection I better understand why it does not make you a better person or writer to allow those comments through.

Griefers are cut from the same cloth: You will hear arguments about how very clever griefers are – see how they created this physics-defying trap! See how they totally ruined your avatar that you spent months perfecting! See how they created a fish to follow you round the sim so you can’t take any pictures with yourself in it! Wow! Such brilliance and talent and such a load of bullshit. All they have created is to ruin others’ ability to create, or to ruin what others have already created. Like the trolls and the typical post-modernists, all they’ve done is knocked down something and provided nothing better or interesting or enlightening in its place. They make you spend your own creative time un-doing their destruction – making you report them or attack them, and either way feeding them the attention they so clearly crave.

How many hours, days, months of your life would you have back if not for having to un-do or address these sorts of people – people who seem to purely do what they do to (1) get attention and (2) destroy what others have created? Too many. So do yourself (and everyone else) a favour and don’t let the troll comments through, and don’t reply in person to the griefers, save your time and energy for creation, not destruction.

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Something I accidentally learnt in RL this year, has been accidentally applied in SL these past few months. I’ve only fully realised and appreciated this after what I’ve been through in the last 24 hours. Conflict management. I’ve been forced to learn the various theories of how best to manage conflict because the course I’ve been teaching in RL includes a sizable management component that I had to mark in student’s assessments. Without fully realising it I’ve been applying these learnt theories to managing Crown & Pearl.

The main event / conversation that made me realise how much I was drawing on these theories was an issue to do with a time conflict of events at the bar. The details don’t matter, what matters is the way I dealt with it when it was bought to my attention. The key piece of conversation that made me realise I was using my conflict resolution theories was when one person involved said to me that they didn’t want to deal with the conflict, they didn’t want the drama. To which I replied, this isn’t about drama, this is about management and avoiding future conflicts. And it was. In fact, the way the other person was viewing the issue revealed their own approach to conflict: Avoidance. All avoidance does is force conflict beneath the surface, and it only ever does this temporarily. The conflict will re-emerge, sometimes in the same issue, sometimes in other ways, but it will re-emerge and it is at that point that the real and consequential drama will kick in.

The theories I’ve been dealing with in my course have taught me this about avoidance, and also taught me that the most commonly accepted view of how to resolve conflict – through “compromise’ – is not the ideal. Compromise assumes the two parities sacrifice something in order to get what they want. The best path is collaborating so both parties get what they want without having to make sacrifices. It is the real win-win, and it can be done, it just requires open and meaningful communication, a bit of effort, and some lateral thinking.

The irony is that I also realised that I had forgotten this vital lesson about avoidance and made the same mistake myself: I recently found out something about a friend that made me slip into total avoidance; I removed her from my friends list, muted her and blocked her on my msn. I told myself I was doing the right thing because confronting her would only lead to a bad outcome with my level of emotion the way it was – that time would calm me and make me more rational. And it did. But through the rationality that the time-out gave me I also came to realise how I had made a vital error by employing avoidance as my technique for dealing with the conflict. Whether my anger towards the friend was right or wrong, the way I chose to deal with it was definitely wrong.

One of my strengths of character is I am ready and able to say when I have done something wrong. It is vital as human beings that we evolve in our ability to handle relationships and learn how best to cope with conflict. Part of that is being able to say when you’ve goofed it up, admit to it, and deal with any consequences. And I am able to do that, it is not a weakness to admit when you’ve gone wrong; it is a rare strength.

This issue of admitting wrongness in the aid of easing conflicts, came up in a lengthy discussion with another SL friend today as I helped them with their own crisis. I do a lot of that in SL – and it’s come to be an essential part of my role at Crown and Pearl – I help people deal with crises. I’ve always done this in RL too, and was often told that I should do a degree in psychology to turn it into a career. I almost did, but after a few courses I changed my major to philosophy. I don’t regret doing philosophy but some day I plan to return to that original intention of studying the human mind and helping people to better understand how their own works.

All up it was a challenging day: Full of conflicts and realizations. I helped some people, and even helped myself: I found out I’d been applying the lessons I had learnt to others conflicts but had forgotten to apply them to my own. But at least I have the strength to admit that, and the emotional intelligence to be aware of and be able to change that in the future. Yay for learning curves 🙂

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One of the first logical flaws we used to teach students to identify, in a uni philosophy course I tutored, was ad hominem attacks. Attacking the person instead of the argument. Essentially the error is made when someone presents a reasoned argument and instead of attacking the premises, the attack is made against the person presenting the argument. It’s simple enough to identify, and to understand, and yet it is a reasonably common error. Maybe that’s because people haven’t consciously thought about logic and premises, and argument structures. That’s pretty likely, and when you push the person making the error to identify what part of the argument they’re attacking, they tend to get flustered and defensive, which is a pretty good sign that they don’t really understand the argument they’re making either.

There are other reasons for the error too: They don’t understand the argument they’re attacking so can’t make a meaningful response; they’re lazy and took the easy road of attacking the person instead of the idea; or, and this one’s the kicker, they know full well what they’re doing and are just relishing the chance to have a go at the person making the argument.

I used to be a student politician and so had to do a lot of public speaking. I suffered a fair few ad hominem attacks, and many a time from people who had taken the course and consciously knew what logical flaw they were implementing. But they were playing “the game”, they knew it, I knew it, and we both knew the large bulk of the population would fall for it and think the personal attack actually undercut the argument made. I grew a tough skin though, you have to if you’re in student politics, you learn to just take it in your stride and realise it’s part of the world you chose to get involved in.

The world of blogging is very similar: It’s a public forum where the mass population can attack your arguments if and when it suits them. If you’re going to blog you’re going to need to grow a tough skin, and understand arguments and logic. So when people make personal attacks against you instead of attacking your arguments, you remember that it’s a sign of their own ignorance, laziness or just mean spirit- keep that in mind and it shouldn’t get to you so much. Even better, point out the flaw they’ve made in a coherent and thoughtful, calm, reply. I know sometimes it’s easier said than done, but let me take the analysis one step further:

If the person who is personally attacking you instead of your argument is a friend, then they’re probably not that much of a friend after all, and if the person is not a friend to begin with, then why do you care so much about what they say and think? Again, easier said than dealt with, but with practice it gets easier.

One last important point I want to make. Be careful not to make the logical flaw in reverse: Don’t think that just because someone attacks your argument, that they are attacking you personally. I’ve seen this mistake been made almost as often as the more classic ad hominem attack.

This blogging thing can be tricky sometimes, I’m somewhat new to the internet version but I am not new to having my opinions printed in publicly available mediums, and speaking to hundreds of people at a time in person in a heated and passionate forum where I can be critiqued just as openly and without the ability to mute or control the responses. It’s something that comes naturally to some, and never comes to others. I worked very hard to get to the point I am now, and it’s interesting to me to watch how other people cope (or don’t cope) with it. This won’t be my first blog post reflecting on blogging itself, it’s a fascinating phenomenon.

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