How Big of a Problem is Miscommunication on the Internet?

One of the many disagreements between Mitchell and I involves the degree to which miscommunication is a problem….Actually, I’m not even 100% sure this is the case, but let me explain what I sense is an issue we disagree upon. For me, I think people, even very intelligent people, have trouble communicating with each other–either the person expressing their thoughts and feelings or the person receiving them. Think of the telephone game, which provides compelling evidence for this. In my view, I think the communication is even more difficult on the internet, largely because of the nature of the medium (which I won’t go into). Because of this difficulty, I have tried to be more circumspect in my dealings with people–going so far as assuming that when disagreement occurs, some breakdown in communication has likely occurred, rather than actual disagreement. My sense is that Mitchell disagrees with this–that he thinks I’m overstating this problem, and maybe making a big deal of this than it really is. Again, to be clear, I’m not saying my perception is accurate. Indeed, in keeping what I just wrote, it wouldn’t surprise me if my impression is wrong, and a result of miscommunication and misunderstanding.

In any event, I saw an exchange that made me think of this, and I wanted to post it here.

I actually haven’t read through all of the articles–and the ones I have have been confusing and difficult, because they involve technical points of the law. However, my sense is that a breakdown in communication has occurred between the two people, both experts of the law, and it seems like a good example of the type of problems that occurred. Both seem to make an assumption that they have a clear understanding of the other person’s position, and then rebut or even attack that position, sometimes veering into name-calling. That escalates the tension and hostility–all of which could have been avoided, in my view, if either or both were far more cautious–cautious to the point of assuming that if a disagreement existed, that there must be some misunderstanding. This is especially the case when the point of disagreement seemed really puzzling. For example, if Schoenfeld thought McCarthy wasn’t being reasonable or misreading the law, he could have assumed that there were some breakdown in communication, and responded in a more circumspect way, genuinely asking for clarity. This approach may be tiresome, and it may seem silly, but I actually think it’s a sound approach. I also prefer this approach to assuming that someone is saying something unreasonable and flat-wrong, only later to find out that there was some breakdown in communication. That makes me feel foolish, and it’s not a feeling I enjoy.

2 thoughts on “How Big of a Problem is Miscommunication on the Internet?

  1. Reid, if we get into this the only thing that’s going to be accomplished is that I am going to piss you off. I guarantee you that whatever other outcome there might be, there WILL be that. Pissing you off (I mean genuinely and royally pissing you off) is not worth it to me. As flawed as my communication with you may be, it’s something I can live with. Pissing you off to the point I certainly would, um, is not.

  2. OK, we can just move on. In thinking about this more, it’s not a topic I really want to discuss (so I probably shouldn’t have posted this), but the exchange between two intelligent individuals just made think of this again.

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