Re: virus: E-Dialectic

Eric Boyd (
Wed, 12 Jun 1996 01:20:51 -0500

John ''Storm of Drones'' Williams wrote:

> 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.

This is a feature of speaking that I do not like. It takes me time to
think of what to say. This message is a good example. Two days now
since I read it first. In that way, e-mail has allowed me to say things
that I could never have otherwise.

I asked my dad about your message, and the first thing he pointed out
was your use of "persuassive rhetoric". Rhetoric is not a conversation,
it's a lecture. So the point here is that your use of the word rhetoric
is misleading. Use "conversation" or "dialogue".

> 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.

This looks like the level 3 meme mutating into a new form. I'd say that
it's effects are the same in dialogue as in thought. More ideas.
Better understanding of the issue. But more difficult to achieve.

While I'm on level three discussions, how would one go about defending
the objection that, at heart, level three is about a call to
intellectual hypocracy? That the entire idea is to use any and all
paradyms /when they are useful/, and not because they are "right" or
"true" seems to me to be a really good way to justify saying that "I'm
not going to argue on your turf of rationality now because I think
reason is the wrong tool. Instead, I'm going to use [memetics, faith,
the flips of coins] and to talk with me you'll have to do the same." Is
not failure to adhere to some "ultimate" standard merely claiming that
all is relative and thus I can think (do?) what I want regardless of
your wishes?

[just playing Devil's Advocate here]

> 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?

Once again, not rhetoric. But I think that memetics tells us the system
will evolve itself. That, in fact, e-mail conversations will take on a
dynamic that helps to spread meme's in the most successful way simply
becuase that is what is needed. The system here is so /open/ (unlike,
say, television) that evolution really makes sense. So the reason that
we, say, change tread names occasionally seems to me to be just a facett
of the memes' attempts to spread themselves.

(and just for Grant: sorry, it's us that changes the thread name,
becuase we know that such a change will help us to express ourselves
better. Whether meme's have /intentionality/ or not is unimportant,
really. It's just useful sometimes to think that they do and see where
it leads. Remember: memetics is just a tool. It is not reality, it is
just a /useful/ model of it.)