April 28th, 2006

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How to disagree online without being disagreeable...

A while back, we had a long discussion in this journal on the topic of how to disagree -- face to face, or perhaps on the telephone -- without being disagreeable [see http://ozarque.livejournal.com/234229 and http://ozarque.livejournal.com/235188 ]. Several people asked questions about whether the strategies and techniques that were talked about in that discussion would transfer to the Internet, and I promised to give that some thought and come back to it. I'm now ready to start working on that, with your help; consider it a work in progress, please, and not intended as The Last Word on any aspect of the topic.

First: some things that it seems to me can be transferred to online disagreements with little or no modification.

1. The It-Should-Go-Without-Saying Rule
Don't swear, don't use obscenities, don't use name-calling, don't use open insults, don't yell [online, that means don't type in all capital letters or in all boldface type]. Be civil. Don't use the English Verbal Attack Patterns [see http://ozarque.livejournal.com/32994.html , http://ozarque.livejournal.com/33075.html , and http://ozarque.livejournal.com/47829.html ].

2. When it's necessary to make a complaint about someone's language behavior or ask for a change in that behavior, do that by using the three-part message pattern [see http://ozarque.livejournal.com/109401.html ].

3. When you can, match the Sensory Mode [the sensory system vocabulary] coming at you; if you can't match it -- or don't want to match it -- use as little sensory vocabulary as possible. This is just a common-sense matter of doing whatever you can to speak/write the other person's language.

4. If the person you're disagreeing with comes at you using the English Verbal Attack Patterns (VAPs), don't take the bait; use responses that neither set up nor feed a hostility loop. Remember that anything you feed will grow. [See http://ozarque.livejournal.com/53283.html and http://ozarque.livejournal.com/61411.html .]

5. Instead of getting involved in clashing metaphors, try to write your post from inside the metaphor that the person you're disagreeing with is using. [See http://ozarque.livejournal.com/43773.html and http://ozarque.livejournal.com/43915.html .]

Second: some things that it seems to me can be transferred to online disagreements, but that will need some tweaking.

6. Offline, there's a very important rule called "Miller's Law": "In order to understand what another person is saying, you must assume it is true and try to imagine what it could be true of." Online, I think Miller's Law translates this way: "Read what the person you're disagreeing with has posted all the way through from beginning to end, carefully, before writing a response; if there are parts of the post that puzzle you, read them aloud before responding. Think about what you've read for a minute. Assume that it's true, and try to imagine what it could be true of. And then, after you write your response, read your words aloud -- listening to them carefully as you read -- before you post them." [See http://ozarque.livejournal.com/19201.html and http://ozarque.livejournal.com/19975.html .]

Offline, you have the other person's tone of voice, intonation (the tune the words are set to), facial expression, and other body language to help you decide what emotional message goes with the words you're hearing. Online, you don't have any of that, and your tendency is going to be to "hear" what you're expecting to hear based on the context and what you know about the other person -- that is, to hear sarcasm or whining or aggression or tenderness or whatever other emotion seems to you to "be there." Listening is your most essential communication skill offline; online, you can't listen, and it seems to me that the only thing you can substitute for listening is taking great care instead of posting in haste.

7. Offline, there's a useful response called the Boring Baroque Response [see http://ozarque.livejournal.com/22528.html ]. Online, I think that translates to posting recipes.

That's enough for a start. I want to add only one thing: It seems to me that perhaps the greatest challenge in online disagreements is figuring out whether the person you're disagreeing with is being disagreeable -- hostile -- or not.

Over to you.
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Touch.... reading Braille.... links

I've been doing some research, trying to settle the question of (a) how the hands and fingers are ordinarily used in reading Braille, and (b) how those facts fit into the issue of the reading speed necessary for understanding what's read. I've read a batch of papers -- mostly not very recent -- and want to mention two of them for those of you who might want to pursue this. Both address (a), but not (b); I'm still hunting for work on (b), much intrigued by occasional hints about something called a "touch sensory store."

First is a short article on teaching Braille reading, at http://www.brl.org/intro/session11/teaching.html . It has a very clear brief description of one method.

The other paper is a long and detailed -- and very informative -- research study, with lots of diagrams and charts, titled "A Study of Braille Reading: Patterns of Hand Activity in One-Handed and Two-Handed Reading"; it's at http://www.braille.org/papers/anal2/anal2.html .