virus: E-Dialectic

John ''Storm of Drones'' Williams (
Tue, 10 Jun 1997 10:12:56 -0400

I've noticed here, and elsewhere, that Electronic Dialectic has a
distinctly different flavor; I want to explain some of my observations, and
ask people to comment on them, memetically speaking. I'm rather new to
memetics, so I'd like to see how we can make this fit.

First of all, I've noticed that people are different speakers in-person
than they are written. This is no real surprise; but one of the illusions
of email is that people are thought of as being "in person," even though
they are writing. There is a conversational dynamic that is not present in,
say, letter-writing, because response can be so immediate.

Secondly, in letter-writing, people are often required to be much more
economical in how and what they quote. This is similar to spoken
conversations, where issues can be brought up with and dispensed with
before the other party has the opportunity to respond; as such, the
conversation mutates, and persuasive rhetoric in some sense depends on
being able to control the mutation of the conversation in your favor.

Email conversations mutate, but not in one direction only. Since you can
interupt someone *without* actually interupting someone -- ie, you just
break a quote off at point x and respond -- you might get several mutations
close together that break into discrete, independent conversations.
Complexity increases dramatically; and if new Threads are not made to aid
navigation through the conversation, one can become radically lost -- and
others wishing to participate will be unable to join in, since in one
message there may actually be five or six issues raised that are being
debated at one time.

How does this effect logic? Does this increase the spread of memetic
material, in addition to the natural spread increase that one gets by
speeding up communications media? How do we have to change persuasive
rhetoric to deal with this new, no-time-limit sort of argumentation?

-- John

John Williams
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"See my loafers? Former gophers!"