Friday, November 11, 2016

Interactive And One Way Conversations

Interactive and One Way

Since the events of the 8th of November 2016 it has become evident how it is that the outcome occured.  Many pieces have been presented that analyze this.  Here are some of my thoughts that follow along in the same vein.

We gather information with our senses and use reflective thought to make judgements and conclusions to guide how we should behave. 

Additionally, and in many cases more importantly, we use direct and interactive conversation with others to form our judgements. 

We are hardwired by natural selection to 'sort things out'.  This attribute is part of how all creatures are able to get around and successfully negotiate their environment.

For our species, we have raised this attribute very high level.  Our ability to engage in reflexive thought coupled with our ability to engage in interactive conversation with our fellow humans marks our species as unique in its ability to persist and blossom.  

Our ability to accumulate, preserve and advance our knowledge is completely entangled in our ability to engage in direct and critical interactive conversation with each other.

We are also compelled to share our observations, ideas, and judgements with others.  This compulsion is not to just invite agreement but also, and much more importantly, it invites critical feedback to whatever idea or judgement we have come to.  Critical feedback is a necessary part of creating new and improving on old ideas.  There really is no such thing as a successful solitary human.

When direct conversation becomes one way instead of interactive dark situations can and will emerge. 

With the advent of Writing, Printed Media, Cinema, Radio, Television, and finally the Internet non interactive, one way conversation has become much easier.

When it emerged, writing was to one extent or another interactive. It was and remains an effective way of engaging in interactive communication between individuals and as a way an individual and groups can communicate with each other.  

Social media conversations between an individual and a group of 'friends' is an example of written conversation. Ordinary conversations in organized meetings and social gatherings are other examples.  Modern written, audio and visual weBlogs are examples of how individuals communicate with groups. 

To the extent that the communication of thoughts and processes is not interactive but one sided creates the potential to expose a darker side of human communication where harmful, and false ideas and processes can be adopted.  

This darker side of human interaction is a slippery slope that is very easy to slide down.  It is much easier, sometimes, to just listen and not reflect.  It takes extra mental energy to think critically and if the argument is well stated and easy to believe. We find ourselves suspending our critical thinking.

Looking back on history we see technological innovations in communications many times subverted and used to empower the few over the many.  The early church before widespread literacy enabled by printed books is an excellent example.  Once printed media was widely available and literacy blossomed the few keepers of the written word no longer held undue sway over the rest.

With the modern advent of printed media, cinema, radio, television, and the internet we see the dark side of one-sided communication rise to new heights.

The ability of newspapers and magazines and even books to transmit ideas in a non interactive manner has long been recognized for its ability to sway the way we think and behave. We are usually quick to label sources that propose harmful and false ideas as one-sided and call them propaganda.

Written communication necessarily forces the reader to engage in reflective thought.  It can be used subvert the reader into agreeing with positions and ideas that are harmful by careful structure and presentation.  Because of its pace it is much less effective in subversive than the spoken word or visual presentation.

Radio, and television are much easier to use to present one-sided propaganda.  The reason is they are verbal and visual and more importantly they mimic actual interpersonal communication without interaction.  We hear and or see someone talking directly to us and we are forced to just listen, and watch. 

This is opposed to the case were in the course of an actual one-to-one conversation you may interrupt at any time and challenge or ask for expansion of an idea or statement on the fly.  

One reason this has become such an easy way to subvert our way of thinking about things is that it is baked into our way of learning.  The one-sided lecture as opposed to an interactive dialogue to teach and learn has expeditiously become the norm. When combined with the suppression of the ability and the skill to engage in critical thought and expression then even the learning process itself is subverted.

Careful choice of the presenter's arguments and style of delivery whether strictly auditory or visual and auditory can and has swayed great numbers of the population into the adoption of harmful positions of thought.

The first instance of this in my life occured while I was on a business trip to Spain.  I learned, via television, of the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City.  

It came to me at that moment that the talk radio show of Rush Limbaugh was partially responsible.  Here was a fellow who employed talk-radio to subvert how his audience thought about current events.  This subversion could have help set the environment that motivated the man who carried out the bombing.

A month or so before my trip a friend of mine at work, who attended high school with Rush, related a conversation he had with him at a reunion.  My friend asked Rush what was going on with that radio program. Rush responded that it was all just entertainment.  Rush disavowed his program was intended to inflame harmful ways of thought in the susceptible population of listeners.

The advent of talk-radio and the 24 hour cable news and radio news cycle in the past 30 years has given rise to many more examples of this sort of media.

The advent of satirical programming like Saturday Night Live, The Daily Show, The Colbert Show, and late night entertainment shows has given rise to examples of media that take as their audience folks who despise media like Rush Limbaugh and Fox News.  These types of shows are examples of the same type of non interactive communication.

The result is large percentages of the population have become convinced that their 'side' whether represented by Fox News or The Daily Show has got it completely right and they find themselves unable to communicate with each other.  Somewhere around one percent of the total of over one hundred twenty million votes separate the two sides in the 2016 presidential election.

Additionally the emergence of "Reality-TV" has also done damage.  These types of shows, sometimes characterized as 'real-world-soap-operas' have blurred the line between entertainment, fiction and reality.  The winner of the presidential election in 2016 leveraged just such a blurred line to catapult himself into the national spotlight and when combined with non interactive communication did convince enough folks in enough states to vote for him and ensure an electoral college victory.

Finally:  How do we as a modern global society move away from non interactive communications that can and do lead to dark results and instead toward a method that allows interactive communications based on the scientific method to have sway not only for technological progress but also social progress?

Such social progress is critical.  We live on a single planet that has finite resources.  We must as a planetary society come into balance not only with each other but also with our ecological niche in the biosphere.

Currently we are out of balance. We need to learn and teach critical thinking.  We need to limit non interactive communications to only fact based presentations or entertainment and not blur the lines between fact, fiction, and entertainment.

Expressing an opinion in an interactive forum that allows interactive challenge is fine.  Expressing an opinion as fact and news (whether in a satirical or non satirical manner) in a forum that disallows challenge and interaction must be stopped.