Thursday, November 15, 2007

Much explained

Tim Dunlop boils down an experiment that illumines much observed phenomena in the blogosphere:

Groups of people were brought together and divided according to their political views (left-of-centre and right-of-centre, or “conservative” and “liberal” in US parlance) and the groups were then invited to discuss amongst themselves various key social and political issues. The issues included civil unions, global warming, affirmative action and others...

The results were simple. In almost every group, members ended up with more extreme positions after they spoke with one another. Discussion made civil unions more popular among liberals; discussion made civil unions less popular among conservatives. Liberals favored an international treaty to control global warming before discussion; they favored it more strongly after discussion. Conservatives were neutral on that treaty before discussion; they strongly opposed it after discussion...

Aside from increasing extremism, the experiment had an independent effect: it made both liberal groups and conservative groups significantly more homogeneous—and thus squelched diversity.

Kind of explains the sort of stuff that occurs, for instance, here, here and here.

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Anonymous Dylan said...

Thoughts on sport tend to go this way, too. Many people go to a game sure it is going to be close and then - with the roar of the crowd and the atmosphere of other supporters - move towards imagining that there is no way their team can lose. This has happened to this Dockers supporter more than a few times...

Perhaps we are hard wired this way?

15/11/07 8:34 PM  
Blogger Jacob A. Stam said...

It's almost certainly a 'hard-wired' phenomenon. Perhaps a product of the titanic struggle for control of the organism between the herd-mentality and the commonsense genes.

15/11/07 10:09 PM  
Anonymous Craig w said...

My experience in blogging in various forms is exactly as described. I cant think of any discussion I have seen where two distinctly different groups move towards each other and reach a concensus on .. well anything. Is it fun to argue? Perhaps it is, but I find that it gets a distinctly nasty edge to it that really leaves me cold. I have done my share of abuse at times, but I try to restrain myself now. Life is far too short to get bitter and obsessive about people you have never met!

From my reading of comments, I think WD has gone rather more in one direction of late. CC has just been quiet, except for the obligatory argument about Israel. Tim Blair doesnt really seem to change much, primarily because you dont tend to get many people expressing an alternative view.

I must admit to being involved in a blog, albeit related to model railways. But that doesnt get bitter and nasty - well not yet anyway!

16/11/07 7:27 AM  
Blogger Jacob A. Stam said...

Wow, Craig, I'm going to take up model trains, just for the novelty of participating in such a blog.

16/11/07 7:58 AM  
Blogger Father Park said...

No you will not Jacob! You will participate in no such blog.

Craig's version of this model railway blog is just that: a version. It does not necessarily reflect the reality. He'd have you believe that there are no hard and fast entrenched positions with respect to engine bogies.

The raging arguments and abuse generated by the claims of some that the Furness Railway No. 123 (a type 4-4-0) was built in 1890 rather than late1890-1891 is indicative.

These people would pole-axe you with a sleeper pin given half the chance!

16/11/07 8:25 AM  
Blogger Jacob A. Stam said...


Almost had me sucked in there, Craig, hook line and sinker.

Hmmm... wonder if there's a convivial fishing blog somewhere. Just think of the serenity.

Nah, probably constantly trolled by fish-rights activists.

16/11/07 9:06 AM  
Blogger Craig w said...

You are welcome to stop by and shake your head at my little bit of idiocy. My concern has been more along the lines of some other people (no names, no pack drills) deciding to stop by to pen a few abusive lines to me.

Father Park, your joke is not all that far wide of the mark. Some of the forums and email groups can be viper pits at times. But im sure that Ancient History forums are not that different either!

it seems to be something with blogs me thinks :)

16/11/07 10:51 AM  
Blogger Father Park said...

Oh indeed Craig, indeed.

When you have a spare moment, have a scan down this thread and check out Taphoi's smug - even sneering - attitude. An example:

Are you going to tell Pothosians that she believed that Alexander had plotted the murder of her son? Are they going to believe you, if you do? Pigs may indulge in aviation I suppose!

I'll leave you to work out under which moniker my erudite good self posts.

16/11/07 11:49 AM  
Blogger Caz said...

This has LONG (decades?) been known about advertising, in particular political advertising.

For example, an ALP supporter will view Lib adverts and their opinion that the Libs are evil is reinforced. Ditto and likewise, when they seen an advert for their own side the righteousness of their ways is reinforced.

Of course, the funny thing about all of this is that it means that political advertising is counter-productive, no matter which way you slice it or dice it. The money is pure, unadulterated waste.

Election costs are bad enough in little Oz, but think of the obscene waste in the US - mostly for nothing (their grass roots efforts to convince people to vote can be effective, but that's lobbying, rather than advertising).

Anyway, nothing new about these findings, other than reinforcing all of the previous findings. ;-D

(Jacob - for duck pics - cazhart - at - )

16/11/07 8:28 PM  
Blogger Caz said...

Craig - you should see what they get up to on pregnancy or 'mother & baby' forums.

Enough to make a grown man weep.

Vipers, vipers!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

They make political blogs look anodyne.

16/11/07 8:30 PM  
Anonymous Jacob said...

Craig, wouldn't think of 'shaking my head' at your pursuits. And I'm pretty sure your secret will be safe here. Anyway, yes indeed, blogs can be either hohum or hotbeds, or either or both at different times.

Caz, what about political ads and swinging voters. Those groovy people are the ones ads should be targetting, I'd have thought.

16/11/07 9:28 PM  
Blogger Caz said...

Nope, political advertising just doesn't work that way.

Bear in mind that "swinging voters" are self assessed, so are very likely not nearly as uncommitted as the pollsters, the journo's and the pollies like to believe.

I could be deemed a "swinging voter", on the basis that I don't automatically vote for the same party at every election (state or fed).

The problem, however, is the assumption that I'm open to being "convinced" by one or other party (or parties, or all hues), if only they hammer me hard enough, or somehow offer me appropriate bribes, or if they have the gosh-darned best advertising.

Which, is a total crock of shite, really, given that I apply my very own analysis and come to my very own decision, none which is based on ANY advertising.

I don't make service and products purchasing decisions based on advertising either. Never ever.

16/11/07 9:56 PM  
Anonymous Dylan said...

The online element is interesting. It seems pretty clear people are more comfortable with retreating to extreme positions online than they would be in real life. In real life if someone is constantly too far away from my opinion to be turned (and I from theirs, too) then it is usually not long before you say "agree to disagree" and move on.

I, for example, know there are subjects you just don't bother my mother-in-law about because all it creates is an argument that neither of us will win. Online, however, it is easier to keep on arguing because you have nothing invested in the relationship between you and the other person.

And of course, the person with the opposing extreme view will always see "agree to disagree" as an admission of defeat under the pressure of their incontrovertible logic...

16/11/07 9:58 PM  
Blogger Caz said...

There's definitely a particular type of metaverse participant who steadfastly refuses to "agree to disagree" with anyone, no matter how courteously the offer is made, or the spirit of goodwill with which it is made, or how obviously and utterly doltish it would be to continue with a line of discussion.

16/11/07 10:14 PM  
Anonymous Craigw said...

Caz, what I have difficulty with in blogs is the constant attempts to take some sort of moral high ground. Greens supporters are a particularly bad example of it. Grubby preference deals? Bad if Libs or ALP do it, fine if greens do it. The other thing I am sooooooo over is the interminable Israel/Palestine thing. yes, I know I should be caring etc etc, but I am so tired of the constant bashing by both sides. Neither side are saints and they bothe need to compromise, but wont. I guess they are the two good blogging examples. But you should see 00 modellers vs P4 modellers... another classic example!

I am sure the pregnancy foorums are the same, actuall I think we have all confirmed what the original commentary was about

Hate political advertising too....

17/11/07 9:50 AM  
Blogger Caz said...

Indeed, we have confirmed the premise of the post Graig.

The Greens - or anyone else - trying to appropriate the so called moral high ground is far more counter productive than they realise, as well as being plain dumb.

I imagine it creates extremes of opposition, rather than gathering hordes to support their causes.

Whenever a person or group goes the moral high ground route, what they're saying is "follow me" and "learn from me", and that will always get people's backs up.

Walk with me - fine - but don't walk ahead of me - your values are not superior to my values.

That's my thought on it. It's about the insistence that their values are better than the next person's, which of course, is almost never the case.

The other funny thing I've noticed a bit lately is "young" folk who believe they "invented" environmentalism, and "young" folk who believe they are the "most politically aware generation" to have ever walked the earth.

That makes me snigger and snort a lot. (Not an overly attractive look for me, by the way.)

17/11/07 10:47 AM  
Anonymous Jacob said...

Obviously there's certain issues upon which it's unavoidable that there will be vehemently competing claims for the 'moral high ground'.

Such topics are often about what people consider to be 'self-defining', so it's sometimes at least going to be a slog to maintain a semblance of civilised discourse and respect.

Then when folks with similar 'self-definitions' get together there's always a risk that commonalities ossify into rigid orthodoxy. That gives way to a closed shop and witch hunts.

Another thing is that there's a bit of paranoia about orchestrated blog blitzes by professional apparatchiks. I mean, there are actually agencies, particularly in the US, that offer 'blog warriors' who will 'push your message' on popular fora.

I don't know what the answer might be to that kind of thing, but if it takes off then sadly I think blogs as a medium for personal expression will have had its day.

17/11/07 1:09 PM  
Blogger Caz said...

"Then when folks with similar 'self-definitions' get together there's always a risk that commonalities ossify into rigid orthodoxy. That gives way to a closed shop and witch hunts."

And pop goes any moral high ground!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I can't think of a single group in any sphere that can claim a moral hight ground with any degree of legitimacy, and that definitely includes religious groups.

Anyone who claims it is a total maroon.


Yes Craig, my own indifference to the interminable Israel/Palestine thing borders on the callus.

If someone blew them all up, I think I'd indulge in a momentary giggle, then proceed with my life as if nothing had happened.

Mostly, I think we should all - the US included, and the UN - "leave them to it" as it were.

17/11/07 1:41 PM  
Anonymous Craigw said...

I am inclined to agree with you on that Caz I think the sitution does not have a solution, at least a realistic one that all would accept. As such, it will continue on and on and on.
Blogs will continue to argue over it...on and on and on.
I am a member of an English model Railway group called the Scalefour Society. All to do with the scale and standards we use. The Society has area groups, with us in sydney being one. Quite a few of the area groups now have blogs, and the society is pushing it more now. Things like taht strike me as a perfect use for the medium. Apart from endless debates about politics taht is!

It was my 23rd wedding anniversary yesterday. We went to the Sydney entertainment centre to see Muse. Absolutely brilliant! Though it was rather sobering to sit next to three 20 year olds and be told you are cool because their parents only like classical music!

18/11/07 12:57 PM  
Blogger Caz said...

Whoo hoo!

Congratulations to you and the Mrs on your 23 anniversary Craig!!!

Lovely to hear.

18/11/07 1:34 PM  
Blogger Father Park said...

Congrats Craig. The Lady Rector and myself are lining up for twenty-four this coming March.

Perhaps if the stars line up we may do something OS in '09.

18/11/07 6:10 PM  

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