Wednesday, January 25, 2012

In context

One of the problems with internet communications is that by virtue of the medium we do not get the full context of the people participating.  What I mean by this is that unlike conversations we have in public with flesh and blood human humans the internet forums lack a dimension that adds much to the context of a discussion.

Take for example if you heard from this person:

Peace be with you.

Now let us assume that some person such as the following made another comment:

The Vatican is an organization of perverts and criminals!

Now imagine these comments on an internet thread

PapaJP2 says:  Peace be with you.

MadSciGuy says: The Vatican is an organization of perverts and criminals!

In the first example we see that when we have the full context of the person as a whole we can with better assurance that the ideas put forth are worth listening to.  In the case of the crazy looking person, I regard my revulsion of the face as nature's way of saying "Danger."  

The heart of the problem is that we simply have no notion of who is actually making a comment in a forum.  It could be the Pope, a crazy drunk, a five year old or a mass murderer.  We don't know.  And without that we are forced to assume that any idea, no matter how crazy, is asserted in all seriousness and requires the same level of address.

It's an unfortunate limitation of the technology that is supposed to make us more connected.  And it is something to keep in mind when participating in any online discussion.  We are not dealing with the whole person on the internet, and because of this we cannot see the whole discussion.

Second picture provided by J.J. at the Englisch language Wikipedia

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