Re: dueling ettiquette? or tea party manners?

t (MemeLab@aol.com)
Sat, 17 Apr 1999 14:32:14 EDT

From: <MemeLab@aol.com>
Date: Sat, 17 Apr 1999 14:32:14 EDT
Subject: Re: dueling ettiquette? or tea party manners?
To: memetics@mmu.ac.uk

There has been some suggestion that this topic is irrellevant to this list.
If others see as such, please indicate this by not responding to the message,
or EMing me directly instead of to the whole list. Obviously expressing such
concerns in an EM response to the whole list is self-defeating and
contradictory to those very concerns. I would assume that most folks here
would see that as patently obvious, but apparently that isn't the case for at
least one person.

I actually do think that it has some relevence to this list, though I may be
wrong about that. Communication dynamics, and modes and manner of
communication I think are very closely related to the spread of ideas. I
would think that the dynamics of this list itself is a potential subject for
study in memetics. Perhaps some see that as being too close to home because
it involves people's behavior that are themselves involved in these
discussion. We would like to have that comfortable and "respectable" feeling
of objectivity, but I say *too*bad*. That is the inherent problem of trying
to develop a "science" of memetics. By observing and talking about memetics,
and struggling to create a "science of memetics" we are inherently inherently
engaging in memetic activity ourselves. We can't talk about memetics, and
then pretend that the ways in which we talk about memetics aren't themselves
a legitimate topic of memetics.

So far I can identify three possible behavioral modes of communcation, which
are themselves memes as they can be potentially imitated by others. In fact
over time, my own mode of communication HAS evolved through imitation of
others that I communicate. One mode would be what I referred to as "tea
party manners", where the participant attempts to avoid all possible
manifestations of ad hominem. The next would be "dueling ettiquette", where
participants recognize a certain inevitibility to ad hominem but attempt to
develop conventions of acceptable ad hominem and unacceptable ad hominem to
control the dialog to more constructive ends. These conventions themselves
are memes within the complex of dueling ettiquette, some with varying degrees
of incompatibility with each other. And of course finally would be
un-regulated ad hominem.

These categories are somewhat reminiscient to me of studies about the
evolution of Prisoner's Dillema strategies done by Robert Axelrod in his
work, "The Evolution of Cooperation". I had assumed that most on this list
were familiar with that, and would see the parallels, but since the relevance
has been questioned, I figured I ought to try and make this a little more
obvious. Just replace cooperation and defection with ad hominem. The "alway
cooperate" strategy could correlate with the "tea party manners" where the
strategy is to never ad hominem - the "tit for tat" strategy would correlate
with "dueling ettiquette" where the strategy is to engage ad hominem in a
controlled fashion. The "always defect" strategy could correlate with the
uncontrolled ad hominem.

Perhaps, the obvious dueling ettiquette that would correspond to "tit for
tat" would be to always react as your partner reacts. The problem with that
in the context of this list is that we aren't facing just one partner, there
are many partners simultaneously in addition to the presence of an audience.
So it makes discussion lists and message boards considerably more complicated
environments than just a simple one on one series of EM exchanges, and the
potential for engagement strategies and conventions of interaction to be
spread memetically increases considerably, as we not only engage in the
discussions ourselves, but we also watch other people engaging in
discussions. Imitation starts to play a more important factor.

-Jake

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