Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Computer-Mediated Communication

Just to be crystal clear, I need to say this. If I encounter somebody else telling me that "email is less than face-to-face and therefore it limits the ability of communicating" (or something to that extent), I yell.

Emails have less cues than face-to-face stuff. Emails have written words and some paralanguage to convey the message, for sure less than face-to-face. Does it mean face-to-face is a way of communicating that is less ambiguous?


I'm sorry for the mathematically-challenged persons, but more cues mean adding complexity to the mix, NOT lowering complexity. The higher the number of variables in an equation, the higher the number of solutions. DUH.

And I'm also sorry for the statistically-challenged persons. Supposing to factorize all the variables in the simplest possible way (true/false -- for sake of simplicity) and supposing the probability attached to those variables to be independent (like in the case of two persons not knowing each other and meeting -- aka the case of each person not knowing what a particular voicetone or smile means to the other person), the probability to accurately predict the meaning of a message with lower cues is actually higher than the probability to be able to predict the meaning of a message with higher cues.

For example:
1 cue: 50%
2 cues: 25%
3 cues: 12.5%
and so on.

Hence, the likelihood one has to correctly categorize/interpret the meaning of a message from an unknown person is actually higher through email than through face to face encounter.

The fact one usually thinks it would be the reverse is the same reason for people buy lottery tickets: overestimation of actual probability due to a cognitive bias.

Labels: , ,

A Vygotskyian Nightmare

I won't make names, but...

...there are persons that claim to be professionals, but these very same persons don't behave like ones. In fact, they mix personal childhood traumas with relationships with colleagues and that's VERRRRRY unprofessional (regardless of the profession!).

So, the ones that got neglected as kids cry for attention, and scream and yell and pout and pound till they get it. Then there are the ones that were raised by some passive aggressive persons, for which passive aggressiveness is like olive oil for Italians: no matter how unhealthy it is, they keep on using it. Finally, there are the ones that live in the "whatever my impression is, it's reality" frame of mind. A Vygotskyian nightmare.

This very last category is an interesting animal in itself.

For them meaning is constructed socially, so they have to discuss (over and over) what is clear from the get-go in what you've written and said. They hold no certainties whatsoever and they confuse their legitimate conviction with a stand anybody should have. For them, there is no reality, but just an endless "I meant - you meant" dance. They'd argue with anybody and anything just not to be robbed of their illusion (re: lack of reality).

The "best" way you can get in trouble with them is to logically build an argument that robs them of the illusion of uncertainty. They don't really care of whether they are delusional or making sense. All they care is not to be stopped in believing that nothing is certain.

As sad as it is for our sense of self-importance, most arguments aren't personal.

The typical argument goes as follows. There is a person saying something (it doesn't matter whether it's right or wrong, accurate or off-base, etc) and another feeling his/her identity threatened by that statement. The latter will react trying to hit on the former's sense of identity.

At that point, if you are the person that "started" it all by your observations, all you have to do is:
1. smiling
2. looking at the other one straight into his/her eyes, and
3. saying "I'm sorry if it bothers you, but if you can't discern what is being said from your interpretation of it, this is not my problem".

Learn to laugh them away. They aren't worth your time. For all the rest, smile. Thank God there are so many things in life that are more interesting than... persons.

Labels: , , ,

Friday, March 03, 2006

Somebody Asked Me

What I think about starting a "new AVA" or something to that extent. I took the name of the sender off and posted what I replied here.


The biggest of my concerns are the ones I blogged about here:

Namely, that either the new AVA would be a replica of the former “nice” one, OR that it would be a creature of spiteful anger without constructive criticism. I think that the biggest reason for AVA’s demise was the *lack* of conflict management skills, in a way or in the opposite, lack of skills that is also reflected in the way some members of CyberVPM “contribute” to the forum (on *both* the “nice” and the “angry” sides).

I think the new AVA would have to preserve and take care of both the CVA program and the JoVA, but being open to anything coming from the field, *especially* when the field is open to reflect on its practice rather than just saying/thinking “that’s the way it is because *I* think so”. I wouldn’t be open to help building anything that is divisive in nature or in methods. I also don’t believe in “experts” telling the rest of people how to behave, feel, and think, so I wouldn’t support any organization that has a top-down approach. I think the best venue to organize the new AVA from is CyberVPM, because it’s the only place in which a real and large community is already present. However I stay open to any other venue having a community or forming one for this purpose.

Finally, though I think times are ripe for discussion of and about a new AVA, I don’t think the time has come for founding a new organization, because no time for reflection on our present and past practices has passed yet.

Labels: ,

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Beware of "Honest" People!

Yes, today I'm taking another stand of mine. Not "another" as in an opposite one, "another" as in a stand on a different issue.

More precisely, the stand is about those persons that call themselves professionals yet they don't know the difference between asserting their thoughts and being plain old incivil to whoever dissents. This one is a category of violent people that think to be direct, straightforward and inquisitive only when they are rude.

If there is a fight, usually between another "nice" person and a person that "nice" is not, they storm in in order to support the one that they perceive either as having more power, or more merit or as being about to give them "more" of something (read: money, position, attention, consideration, etc). NOT the one they perceive as right.

Actually, they don't even know who is right because their arguments (exactly like in the case of "nice" people) make no logic sense aside from their proposition "let's go to war". They tell you their ideas are superior, but they don't say why. They tell others are wrong, but they don't explain the reasons. Like "nice" people, all they do is covering dissent in shame, even if in a more explicit way.

They call it "telling things as they are" but the reality is that the way they use to put things betray a neglect (when not despise) for whoever thinks and feels in a different way. They take sides, willfully going for the throat of "enemies", like Crusaders, as if the other person wouldn't be human, but an animal or something like that (no no sorry, these persons would protect an animal, but not their fellow humans).

They don't explain to you what they see wrong and how to correct it, they say over and over again that you are despicable because you're not like them. But they do not say the reason for they are right because - surprise surprise - they don't know. They're all slogans, and that's about it. Try to scratch beyond the surface and all you find will be more slogans.

In case one dares bringing to their attention how rudeness changes the whole outlook that listening people have on their reasons (that sometimes, like anything else in life, are valid) and that it might be worthy to tone down and explain, so to convince them and have things their way, they revengefully say they don't like "compromises" and storm elsewhere to do damage there. They don't even care for their own "ideals", or else they would take time to explain and convince others.

It's scary to witness colleagues like that (ie: BOTH "nice" and "honest"). It's even scarier because you can't reach them, even when you want to, do your best to, and even have a glimpse of an idea of what generated those dysfunctional behaviours.

Whatever the explanation you give them, they keep on seeing things in their old reassuring way without realising their are prisoners of their own thinking.

More than scary, it's just plain old sad.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Beware of "Nice" People!

There is a category of violent people that think to be smart, accomodating and oh-so-great. I'm referring to "nice" people.

If there is a fight, usually between another "nice" person and a person that "nice" is not, they rush to support the former even when the latter is just being honest. This is NOT called "pacification" (as they usually call it), this is called taking sides (no matter how many times they might say they aren't taking sides, and scold you if you dare taking the "wrong" one). Then, from their holier-than-thou soapbox, they proceed to explain to the whole world how the "not so nice" person is rude, inconsiderate, not evolute and not deserving to belong to human race.

In case one dares bringing to their attention that anger and pissiness too are feelings and at any rate they do have their pros, this person will usually say something to the extent that you can't impose your (supposed) anger on others or something like that.

But, I wonder why, "nice" people think they can impose their "niceness" on you! That is, simply put, a violent action. Trying to force people toward appreciative inquiry by sweeping issues under the carpet is, too, a violent action. Trying to force any person to do anything s/he doesn't agree with is a violent action, period.

That speaks books on their (very much supposed) niceness (let alone the fact that they know absolutely nothing about facilitation).

Labels: , ,