elftaint: FRANK. N. FURTER. (Default)
[personal profile] elftaint
This post over at Buckeye Surgeon (who I kind of have a hard-on for in the general and in the specific case, and who is one of the only people who can write about conservative thinking and philosophy without making me run for my logical knives) was great as usual, but particularly this:

Maggie Mahar does great work analyzing the intricacies of health care policy and reform but in this particular post she has written irresponsibly. If you're going to use a wide platform like Healthbeat to write about actual medical practice, then you have a journalistic obligation to do so in a much less capricious fashion.

One of my ongoing philosophical examinations is What Is Allowed In Conversation, publishing being a form of conversation. For a long time I've been politically on the side of "you're allowed to say anything, and the burden of proof is on other people if they feel the need to object." I knew it was wrong, but it was also extremely defensible; on this sort of basis - which is the fundamental basis on which every sort of online forum works, like it or not - I was in a position to develop the idea of the Most Defensible Internet Poster.

a little funny (not too funny)
authoritative but apologetic whether
right (apologize for maybe coming on too strong) or
wrong (apologize for being wrong in any way, there is no need to change what you actually say or think though)
ready to let the argument go at all times
constantly ready to pursue your audience and speak at their level and nothing but their level
Failures of communication are your failures, nobody owes you a platform or understanding.

Notice that there's nothing in there about the ethical or informational content of what you actually say. You can say anything as long as it's acceptably pitched. BTW this is a tested profile, and on its basis I have put some amazingly inflammatory content out into forums for webcomics, video games, American politics, womens' magazines, martial arts etc. If you want to change the minds of a huge crowd online: that's how you do it.

PUT YOUR PITCHFORKS DOWN: Of course, I developed this profile because I was having trouble getting people to pay attention to very ethically sound statements - I had to learn how to do this in order to be an adept communicator of ideas that I felt passionately about, beliefs that mattered to me. I was motivated by a desire to see and share in more humanism and tolerance than less. But it doesn't matter what you say as long as you say it the right way.

The concept that there is an innate responsibility in communication is remarkable to me. I'd spent so much time developing a delivery mechanism for the content I believed in that I had no concept that there was any sort of external obligation regarding what that content might be. Yet I knew as soon as I read it that it was correct: the mass communication of ideas should and does carry an inherent charge of responsibility.

The quandry is:

What constitutes responsible communication
and who decides this, now and in the future?

Because these questions cannot be simply resolved, because there is no body that does or reasonably can sit in authority over them, and because there is no readily identifiable negative to irresponsible online communication - the charge of responsibility for communicating online still exists but cannot be assigned or policed. So, functionally, it's like it's not there. It's a haunting.

None of that is the case in the example that Buckeye was discussing, so it's quite possible for him to discuss a medical journalist's irresponsibility. But can these issues be resolved in, say, public political communication?

(And, of course, as always, to me this reduces to a logistical problem - irresponsible communication is bad because it's an undue burden on people to obligate them to constantly sort and evaluate the rightness and wrongness of statements in an environment supersaturated with statements. There's just no fucking time. An algorithm, a new delivery mechanism, anything that would reduce the obligation load would also have the net effect of reducing the responsibility of the communicator.)

Date: 2010-09-19 03:03 am (UTC)
farasha: ([Star Trek] I'm with illogical)
From: [personal profile] farasha
I have to agree with the surgeon here - laypeople talking about medical cases had better be certain they have done the research. When laypeople get misinformation on medical practices or procedures it turns to demonizing doctors and frivolous lawsuits.

On topic with your post - I kind of disagree with "the burden of proof is on other people." The burden of proof is always on you if you're making any kind of argument. On a related note, I define "responsible communication" as, quite simply, doing the research before you open your mouth. When I argue from a position I'm not certain I understand, I'll always bounce over to a reliable source to double-check what I'm saying before I say it. Burden of proof on me.

That's the problem with the blogosphere - nobody checks these people's sources and nobody has talked to these people about presenting opinion with fact. Add that to the fact that most people my age get their news from the blogosphere and you have the potential for vast amounts of miseducation.



elftaint: FRANK. N. FURTER. (Default)
Elf, the horrible degenerate

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