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General Forge Forums => Site Discussion => Topic started by: Bill_White on May 06, 2004, 07:43:33 AM

Title: Communication Ethics of the Forge
Post by: Bill_White on May 06, 2004, 07:43:33 AM
The threads about Forge hubris and thread locking prompt me to observe that one way of thinking about "how we do things around here" is that it's driven by a kind of "ethics" of communication:  a value judgment about  how to approach our interactions with others.

In other words, the commitment of the Forge to hashing out ideas in a civil but intellectually rigorous way is an implicit commitment to an idea of what communication is for that's along the lines of what my favorite social theorist, Jurgen Habermas, calls "dialogic ethics":  an orientation toward (1) achieving understanding rather than "winning the debate" and (2) creating a dialogue among people rather than performing monologues in front of each other.

As soon as we notice this, though, we come face to face with the fundamental problems that crop up in dialogic ethics; specifically (1) the problem of enmity ("Why should I talk to someone who hates me?"), (2) the problem of ignorance ("Why should I listen to someone who doesn't know what he's talking about?") and (3) the problem of power ("Can I really engage in 'dialogue' with someone who can shut down the conversation whenever he wants?")

It's possible to view the routines that the Forge has built up as ways of grappling with each of those problems while maintaining its "dialogic" commitment.  For example:  the insistence upon civility (defusing enmity); the gentle remonstrances afforded "newbie posts" (remedying ignorance); the careful delineation between the "two hats"  (moderator and participant) that Ron and Clinton wear (masking or maybe disciplining power).

Notice that all of these solutions are built, as has been suggested in other threads, on trust.  But not just "Trust Ron" (not to abuse his "power" as moderator, which interestingly and I think somewhat paradoxically derives from his authority as participant primus inter pares).  No.  What's interesting to me is the way that the Forge's commitment to dialogic ethics requires us all to trust each other.  It's really quite extraordinary.

All of which is a long way to go to get to:  if it ain't broke, don't fix it.   But the solutions break down as soon as the trust does, which is important to realize, in my view.

Title: Communication Ethics of the Forge
Post by: Ron Edwards on May 06, 2004, 07:55:02 AM
Hi Bill,

I agree in full. And boy, do I have thread references for you ...

The Forge as a community ( and The five percent (, both of which are part of the Infamous Five family of threads (see the sticky thread at the top of Site Discussion for a full list of the Infamous Five links; I highly recommend them as the turning-point of the Forge from a small group of knowledgeable insiders to a real community).

Hello! And welcome to the Forge (, which had a big influence on the etiquette stickies at the top of the forum now.

New days upon us (, Real names at the Forge (, and Editing posts (, all of which offer bits and snippets of discussions and explanations about Forge etiquette.