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Author Topic: Limits of acceptable "Theory"  (Read 11199 times)
J. Tuomas Harviainen
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Posts: 127


« on: February 03, 2005, 07:24:50 AM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards
This thread is closed. No more posting here, please.
Please take all discussion of Vincent's talk to a new thread.
Please take all discussion of goals & procedures at the Forge to new threads in Site Discussion.


The subject was ordered to move here from the RPG Theory area after a few questions arose on the topic of the limits communally placed here on what kind of theory is acceptable as "theory".

Which, as I see it, proves my point: as soon as the subject of the site's (including here possibly a collection of populace, common policy and/or history) predilection towards a single form of game presence/participation interpretation is questined (which, if I remember correctly, is the basis of academic and scientific theory construction), the matter no longer one of RPG theory, but is sent to an area commonly reserved to problems with the site instead. So what actually are the limits of dialectic criticism here concerning theory validation? Apparently not very broad.

In other words, how is it posssible to critically debate the matter accumulated over the years, if doing so is designated a problem and not a theory issue - even when the discussion clearly stems from the original post?
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pete_darby
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« Reply #1 on: February 03, 2005, 07:33:35 AM »

Huh? I saw that thread mutating into a big-ass discussion of, well, Forge policy, so it gets moved to, errr, the Site discussion thread rather than the theory thread.

If you want to start a discussion on the limits of either the Big Model, or local discussions of theory in general, how about starting a new thread on either the Model board or the Theory board.
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Pete Darby
lumpley
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« Reply #2 on: February 03, 2005, 07:40:55 AM »

Tuomas, welcome to the Forge!

If the subject of the discussion is "roleplayers," it goes in Theory. If the subject of the discussion is "the Forge" or "Forge participants," it goes in Site Discussion.

That's just how we organize things around here; it's for our convenience and if it's not ideal it's still plenty workable. Being told to "take it to Site Discussion" isn't censure.

Questions and complaints about how the Forge's participants treat their theory are valid, even welcome topics, at least as far as I'm concerned. They belong in this forum, not that one. Please raise them!

If you'd like to take on a particular piece of the theory instead or as well - one where the subject is "roleplayers" not "the Forge" - it belongs in Theory. Please feel free!

-Vincent
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Clinton R. Nixon
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« Reply #3 on: February 03, 2005, 08:00:12 AM »

Toumas,


I'm going to guess there's some cross-cultural communication issues going on here. Otherwise, I'm certain your posts today would not have seemed as hostile to me or others.

So, let's start over. You think there's some limit to what sort of theory we can talk about here. You're from Turku, too, which is cool.

So, talk about what you think roleplaying is, and why we do it (in the appropriate forums). We don't have limits on what we'll discuss. That's why we have two moderators. (Well, that and I know web stuff.) One of the two is the questioner, the inquisitor, the ombudsman. In other words, I don't buy all of the theory and I run this joint. So, what's the problem?
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Clinton R. Nixon
CRN Games
J. Tuomas Harviainen
Member

Posts: 127


« Reply #4 on: February 03, 2005, 08:06:01 AM »

Quote from: lumpley
Tuomas, welcome to the Forge!


I've been here a looong time, but precisely due to these locked policies I've stayed many years only as a reader, not as someone who'd post. (Theory incompatibility issues are the other.)

Quote
If the subject of the discussion is "roleplayers," it goes in Theory. If the subject of the discussion is "the Forge" or "Forge participants," it goes in Site Discussion. <snip> Being told to "take it to Site Discussion" isn't censure.


It essentially is censure, as it moves certain "unpleasant" theory issues away from where theory is discussed before they have a chance to develop. But that's somewhat beside the point.

Quote
Questions and complaints about how the Forge's participants treat their theory are valid, even welcome topics, at least as far as I'm concerned. They belong in this forum, not that one. Please raise them!


The core of the issue is not about the Forge, but on the way certain paradigms of rpg research treat their accumulated findings as canon, confusing the very recommendable view of "appreciating the work others have done before your arival to the scene" with "we've already discussed this to the finish before your arrival to the scene." The Forge, in this case, just works as an (in my opinion extremely accurate) example of such a clique. Therefore the question is about principles of theory fixations in general, not site policy.

Side note: having the Site Discussion forum's description to something less "administrative and problem-oriented questions" seeming might make it appear less punitive when a discussion is moved here.

(And to Clinton: I'm as anti Turku-school as you can get. The location simply means I'm from a very different game paradigm than most posters here.)

-Jiituomas
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J. Tuomas Harviainen
Member

Posts: 127


« Reply #5 on: February 03, 2005, 08:08:43 AM »

Quote from: Clinton R. Nixon
I'm going to guess there's some cross-cultural communication issues going on here. Otherwise, I'm certain your posts today would not have seemed as hostile to me or others.


That wasn't hostile. That was simply normal, academic deconstructionist criticism of what was presented as discussion basis. So yes, must indeed be a communication culture issue.
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lumpley
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« Reply #6 on: February 03, 2005, 08:30:32 AM »

So, um, raise your issue, I think that's what we'd all like.

Post in Theory something like "most of you seem to accept as given that all power in the game derives from the assent of the players. That's backward; all power in the game derives from the GM, the sole final authority." Or, naturally, whatever your issue is. You'll get replies. You'll make arguments. We will too. We'll refer you to past discussions and expect you to incorporate them into your thinking - which you'll do. Sometimes you'll be like, "that past discussion handily dealt with my objections, thank you." Other times you'll be like, "nope, I'm saying a new thing here, that past discussion doesn't get at it." In either case, we'll be happy.

Posting that we've rejected your theories because we're set in our ways - well, it's problematic, as you haven't posted your theories to begin with. I don't know what I'm rejecting!

-Vincent
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J. Tuomas Harviainen
Member

Posts: 127


« Reply #7 on: February 03, 2005, 08:55:19 AM »

Quote from: lumpley
Posting that we've rejected your theories because we're set in our ways - well, it's problematic, as you haven't posted your theories to begin with. I don't know what I'm rejecting!


A more correct interpretation would be "a multitude of previous theory suggestions by other people than myself have been rejected by members of the Forgean paradigm due to the suggestions not fitting the GNS model, not because of any possible flaws the ideas contained. The method of rejection is invariably a 'look, we've discussed it here years ago to conclusion, followed by ignoring any arguments to the contrary."

The problem is that the only paradigm I can use as an example on the discussion here is the one Forge members are familiar with, i.e. Forge itself. And as soon as I bring that example up, it's again a site policy issue and no longer "theory" by the local definition.

The problem is actually worse when certain active Forge figures post on other forums, "validating" their views by links to ancient archived threads here. But to discuss that at any length would exceed the limits of what you consider ad hominem here.

My interest in this is actually academical: I'm collecting data on how much local game paradigms and/or favoritism towards the ideas of people who share a paradigm actually seem to shape the central concepts of role-playing theory. (So I'm not out to attack the GNS-based paradigm - even though I must admit to personally considering it outdated.)

-Jiituomas

NOTE: Edited afterwards to get font errors corrected.
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lumpley
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« Reply #8 on: February 03, 2005, 09:09:34 AM »

Oh.

Can't help you with that.

-Vincent
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xenopulse
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Posts: 527

Heretic Forgite


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« Reply #9 on: February 03, 2005, 09:13:08 AM »

Jiituomas,

Quote
A more correct interpretation would be "a multitude of previous theory suggestions by other people than myself have been rejected by members of the Forgean paradigm due to the suggestions not fitting the GNS model, not because of any possible flaws the ideas contained. The method of rejection is invariably a 'look, we've discussed it here years ago to conclusion, followed by ignoring any arguments to the contrary."

The problem is that the only paradigm I can use as an example on the discussion here is the one Forge members are familiar with, i.e. Forge itself.


Let's look at this issue academically then. Let me see if what I learned in graduate school about the academic process still applies :). It seems you make two statements there:

a) A multitude of previous suggestions were rejected outright.
b) You don't have any examples except your own.

How did you reach statement a) from your knowledge base, statement b)? It seems that, if a) is true, you should have plenty of examples at hand. Otherwise, your claim is anecdotal and/or arbitrary, not academically/scientifically grounded.

Therefore, since your interest is academic, I suggest the following. Take some time and search through older threads. Gather instances of the phenomenon you describe. Gather enough to be statistically relevant. Present them via links, pointing out their similarities, and then present your conclusion based on the evidence provided.

As for my personal, anecdotal impression (which is not academically grounded), I've seen people get somewhat defensive about their opinions, yes. But I've also experienced many instances of people willing to explain and consider things. I have not presented any fundamental criticisms of the GNS model, so I have no experience there.
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Valamir
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« Reply #10 on: February 03, 2005, 09:15:51 AM »

J.  I'm going to be pretty point blank here.  At this moment, in the context of this and the earlier thread, I'm not seeing the value-added from your posts.

You complain that no one is listening, yet when people specifically state their intent to listen, you instead refer vaguely to a multitude of incidents occuring to others that make you less inclined to participate...to which I can simply shrug since there is no way to respond to such an imprecise accusation.  

You accuse the entire community here (as if we're some homogenous body) of stifling debate, yet offer no evidence except more vague references to impressions you've gotten from other threads long ago and some ramblings about different paradigms.

Your participation in the last two threads amounts to nothing more than personal venting with little substance.

If you have a paradigm you want to espouse...espouse it.  Do it in the proper forum, and do it without hijaacking someone else's thread (which is why that thread got closed).  State your case specifically and with rigor, and there are many who will be happy to discuss it.  Slinging barbs about how outdated we are is pointless.  If you have a better product...sell us on it...otherwise its all just so much vapor.
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Eero Tuovinen
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #11 on: February 03, 2005, 09:18:42 AM »

These discussions between theoretic scenes are a great interest of mine, because I see too little of it, and what little there is isn't usually useful at all. It's like people catch a certain brand of theory at some point, and after that are unable to converse civilly with anybody who doesn't belong to the tribe. I find this especially sad because most theory people here in Finland seem totally unable to talk with me about anything. Like it's a foreign language or something. I'd like to talk with these immersionists about my own immersionist game designs (Are they that? I don't know, immersionists don't want to talk with me.), or play some formalistic games with some of these vocal realists, but generally nobody cares to know about anything outside their own theoretical sphere.

The problems are partially about very basic culture issues. Different disciplines have different cultures of discussion, and these differences are some times thich in the air when different schools of rpg thought cross. Especially pronounced this is between the Nordics and Americans, which routinely misinterpret each other. Consider:
- It's a matter of personal pride to not get offended or shaken by critique in the Nordic, humanistically inspired discussion culture. Prove your strength by being cool, and state yourself with clarity. Ad hominem or any other tactics are regarded as OK, if they're executed with style, and you don't expect them to carry the day (their meaning is to prove your rhetoric and make the discussion interesting, not to argue your case). The correct answer is to ignore the irrelevant leads and strike true into the actual matter. Respect is gained through trials of wit and feats of any kind.
- In the Forge culture, you're assumed to respect your discussion partner from the start, as well as respect his weaknesses and personal misgivings. Political correctness is important. You should call out any intellectually flawed argumentation, like straw men and ad hominems. Your duty is to try to understand what's being said. The best conceivable end for the discussion is when all sides gain in understanding.
These characterizations are certainly sharpened near absurdity, but also quite true. We've witnessed it over and over here in the Forge, how a rigorous attack towards a position perceived to be flawed is interpreted as hostility. And to make matters worse, all people have multiple modes of discussion, and while some are similar between peoples, some are wildly different. Especially in when and how they're applied. I'm often in the middle in some perfectly reasonable discussions, where each participant hates or despises the other because of perceived wrong conduct. As I'm somewhat multicultural and between the scenes, I see this with clarity.

But apart from communication, there are very deep terminological gulfs one has to be careful in. No news there, eh? I actually gave a lecture on this matter in the last Ropecon. Here's a particularly relevant slide out of it: http://www.arkkikivi.net/verkko/luennot/TTT2.html It's in Finnish, but I'll go through the points in short:

The main cultures of roleplaying theory are the analytical (Forge), practical ("old-school") and artistic (Nordic) cultures. They differ in everything, even what they consider a rpg:
- Most analytical theories hold onto a variation of "activity of manipulating a shared imagined space".
- Most Nordic-type theories define roleplaying as the act of taking a role, fundamentally.
- Most practical theories consider the game as an object: if it's sold as a game, then it's clearly a game. The difference between rpgs and other games might be less important than in other theories.

The scientific approach and influences are also wildly different:
- The analytical theories are sociological and anthropological, striving to create tools for understanding the activity. Examples are the Edwardsian Big Model, Chris Lehrich's ritual theory and the Meilahti model.
- The artistic theories draw from literary analysis and general art theory, striving to clarify the role of roleplaying as an art form and psychological phenomenon. Examples are the Turku school and much of the Solmukohta theorists.
- The practical school is strongly anti-intellectual, and tries to generally prove that there is no theory to roleplaying. Theory is called "advice" or something like that, and includes research of GMing activity and game design. Examples include most games ever written, as well as books like "Larppaajan käsikirja" (Larper's Handbook, an important Finnish title) and Robin's Laws. Most of RPGnet rhetoric as well.

See how completely different, yet parallel the theoretic frameworks are? They have different scientific methods, different goals, different conseptions of what roleplaying is. All this should be understood if we want to have real discussions between the tribes. Take a look at that slide of mine: the picture represents the field of different games: the big circle are all the games a Forge-type theory considers roleplaying, while the smaller circle are the Nordic-type roleplaying games. All Nordic rpgs are Forge rpgs, but not the other way around! I cannot refer to any strongly formalistic narrativistic game (especially Universalis, which isn't a roleplaying game for over half of the Finnish theorists) in support of common theoretic discussion when talking with a Nordic theorist. Similarly, the old-school theory in it's pure form (represented by the oval in the picture) shares of both of the other fields, but also includes games that are not considered roleplaying by the other tribes. For example, serious discussions about CRPGs or Warhammer as roleplaying are pretty common in Finland (although those are extreme examples; D&D in certain applications is not a roleplaying game as far as Forge or the Nordic theories are concerned).

Anyway, I could spout about this topic to exhaustion. It's sufficient to say that up till now I've seen very little motivation for crossing these theoretical barriers. It's partially understandable: the motivations are different. A Nordic theorist doesn't actually benefit from a descriptive theory, when he's interested in a prescriptive model! The best we can hope for, it seems to me, is an understanding that the theories are built for different purposes, and there's no particular order of excellence between them.
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J. Tuomas Harviainen
Member

Posts: 127


« Reply #12 on: February 03, 2005, 09:19:17 AM »

Quote from: xenopulse
Let's look at this issue academically then. Let me see if what I learned in graduate school about the academic process still applies :). It seems you make two statements there:

a) A multitude of previous suggestions were rejected outright.
b) You don't have any examples except your own.


Correction to issue b: I have not yet produced references to the occasions, as the discussion is still on the preliminary level here. I'm currently simply gauging whether it's even feasible to discuss any such findings here, as the initial reaction seemed to be a firm "no".

Research processes are not handled in a single step on a single afternoon. :)

-Jiituomas
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #13 on: February 03, 2005, 09:21:22 AM »

Hello,

If I'm understanding correctly, your goal in reading Forge stuff is to examine discourse processes here. And consistent with that, your goal in posting is to prompt or provoke those processes to reveal their failings, or at least the assumptions underlying their structure.

All of which violates the basic principle of posting here, which is specifically to engage in constructive discourse.

You're not interested in constructive discourse; as you put it, you're a de-constructor. Which is fine, as an observer. Here's the tricky part, though. You apparently want to carry out your research interest in an interventional, rather than observational way.

No one can stop you from carrying out this sort of research or investigation, and of course the Forge is a public site, so you can observe and draw your conclusions (which are depressingly similar to all deconstructionist conclusions) to your heart's content.

You're also, obviously, free to post as you please. But I hope it's clear that there is no way that your posts can be taken seriously by anyone else here. When you post, it's an experiment upon the other people in a thread, not participating with them.

How can anyone possibly regard such posts as something to be considered here? You are treating everyone else as research subjects, not as discourse partners. The only possible response is to carry on with our own shared agenda here (constructive discourse) and to ignore your posts as the interventional attempts to disrupt that process that you've described.

Perhaps, if you do want to post your observations and notions about how "things work here," the  best place is a website of your own, or a public forum which is dedicated to deconstructive efforts. Your observations of the Forge would certainly be data for such a place. People here who are interested in such an approach could go there and see what's up.

Best,
Ron
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Eero Tuovinen
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #14 on: February 03, 2005, 09:31:47 AM »

Hey, how about slowing down here? Tuomas: it's an accepted practice to take your time, so how about pondering the discussion so far for a day or two and thinking on your goals and position?

Ron is certainly justified (not that I have any business to judge, except as an individual) in shredding Tuomas's words to pieces like that, based on what Tuomas actually wrote. I feel, however, that Tuomas at least, and to some extent others as well, have perhaps posted too much and taken the discussion too far, too fast. There's no honor in forcing Tuomas to defend patently absurd conclusions, if he should have over-extended himself into such. So let's let Tuomas redefine his approach before going further, how about it?

Tuomas: think on it, and take your time writing your next post. I'm sure that you have much more constructive stuff in you than what we've seen so far. Grab those example threads of bad discussion, for example, if you really think that a fruitful approach. And don't feel that you have to defend things you might have written here, if there's anything you come to reconsider. Writing before thinking happens to everyone.
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