Saturday, 21 September 2013

Observations about Nuance

Hi guys, welcome to Orygyn!

What I'm about to say, we all have some experience of if we've spent enough time on the internet. We hear things: comments so outrageous in their stupidity that we question whether they can possibly be serious. Many times we tell ourselves that these people are trolls, that no-one can possibly be this stupid. I think there's a simple explanation for this. Think about your knowledge: think about what you know a lot about, and then think about what you know very little about. Are you well-rounded? Or, are some areas vastly more developed than others? I can't imagine many people would identify with option 2, we all have our areas of expertise. On the other hand, we all have our areas of near total ignorance. When two people of dissimilar knowledge-bases meet, the ignorance in both will become clear. This happens on a much larger scale on the internet.

Now for a question. What makes something more stupid than another? If a comment displays total ignorance of, or inability to understand, the relevant subject matter, what could qualitatively trump such ineptitude? Finding ineptitude in a different place maybe. However, there's only so much ineptitude that can be displayed in YouTube comments or videos. I constantly hear about how something will be the stupidest thing I've ever heard. What we're really trying to do is relate to each other: create a temporary bond between and among OP and guests. Social entertainment. Like when people bitch about other people. Do they really spend a lot of time thinking about the people they're bitching about? Is it really as bad to them personally as they make it out to be? Doubtful. They will exaggerate and encourage each others exaggerations to feed off of each other and create that unique and powerful form of entertainment that we crave: attention. Not to mention, certain degrees of stupidity make us feel. How they make us feel will vary widely: amused (how could they be so stupid), bemused (how do I share DNA with them), befuddled (how do you say something like that and not realise how stupid it sounds), angry (that's it after all those years of school) etc. You can only ever truly understand a feeling when you're feeling it, so when it happens again, it will feel new and more powerful, even though, logically, that shouldn't be the case. It should be the same.

These are why one-liners and soundbites succeed as ideas over nuanced and well-thought out arguments. People need to bond over the issue to get a movement going. You can agree or disagree with an argument, but an enemy always gets emotions going more. An enemy, or a single, simple soundbite expressing an emotion, a state of being, or a desired outcome. Even something as vague or as simple as "Change". Or "Hope". Or, if you're from Scotland like me, "Better Together". Why associate yourself with the inherently negative idea of "No" when you could associate yourself with something positive, something that suggests community?

But so what? There's nothing particularly insightful about what I've said here. What matters is how we apply these ideas. The side that claims to have the more substantive argument will traditionally shy away from these tactics as being dishonest or insulting to their target audience's intelligence. But intelligence has little to do with it. If your job is centered around convincing people of things, you need to bear in mind that the people you're talking to don't have all the time in the world, or the desire to spend ages listening to a detailed, nuanced argument, however well thought out it would be. They need to care. You need to hook them fast. They're only going to bother with the details if you make them want to. That first step is essential. It has nothing to do with intelligence. It even has very little to do with attention span. It's simple time economy.

Here's an analogy. As a musician, suppose you hear 2 songs. One is like nothing you've heard before. It uses unique instruments, instruments uniquely, the vocalists have a unique style of singing with incredible ranges, but the song deviates far from the verse-chorus structure of pop music. The other consists of 4 chords repeating over and over again with a simple melodic hook probably in the intro of the song that appears here and there, but everything else is standard for the genre. A casual glance at any music chart will make it obvious which is more successful. Neither style nor substance need hinder the other but both are necessary. All substance will do little to inspire, merely gain fringe respect, and in today's society might be derided as "hipster rubbish". All style will hit hard and disappear fast. A mixture of both will become legend.

Therein lies the problem. I see both separately but very little mixing of the two in any aspect of society, be it art, politics, or even social situations. So here's a soundbite for you:

"Be style. Be substance. Be different. Be legend!"


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