Weblogs 5.0 : Sarcasm doesn't Scale
( Inspired by a flaming I got into with the Reverse Cow Girl (although http://blogs.salon.com/0001437/2002/12/04.html) although) a better example might be the discussion I'm in here under http://www.littlegreenfootballs.com/weblog/?entry=5482#comments under the name "wandering troll" Actually these aren't such good examples. I've seen better elsewhere. Anyone got any good examples?)
One of the reasons I love the internet, particularly the blogging world, something that gives me great optimism, is that it's one of the few media where discussions start as meaningless name calling and deteriorate into rational discussion.
It's so easy to wander into someone's space, take a cursory glance, see something to disagree vehemently with, quickly sound out the vernacular style of the place, slot the appropriate tone of voice, up the ante by one (if it's sober, be extra sober; if it's foaming, hawk up some extra spittle; if sarcastic, add another spoon of sugar), and let fly.
As RageBoy beautifully describes flame-wars in Cluetrain : "hot invective flying around like rhetorical shrapnel ... high art, high entertainment." If you can handle the heat it's great fun.
But it can't last. In the long run, sarcasm isn't scalable. Someone will call you to account for the spleen. And you can ignore it. Or try to press on with your point. But, if so, you will be forced to explain more clearly, make testable claims, take time to understand your opponent's position.
Insults get boring on repetition, only genuine engaged debate retains it's interest over the long haul.
In those disagreements where the opponents care enough to keep fighting, reason is the inevitable result.
As always, RageBoy got this first : " On the Net, you said what you meant and had better be ready to explain your position and how you'd arrived at it. Mouthing platitudes guaranteed that you would be challenged. Nothing was accepted at face value, or taken for granted. Everything was subject to question, revision, re-implementation, parody ? whether it was an algorithm, a political philosophy or, God help you, an advertisement. "
Sarcasm may not scale in time but it might scale in numbers. For example, a channel (eg. SlashDot discussions) can be swamped by a huge number of me-too drones who are just phatically reaffirming their commitment to an idea without bothering to read anyone else.
Teenagers use blogs and SocialSoftware to bully and humiliate their peers.
CategoryWeblogs, CategoryOnlineWriting, CategoryEpistemology