A comment is not yet a conversation – a conversation needs a common ground

What is more valuable than gold? Light.
What is more precious than light? Conversation.

J. W. von Goethe

We talk a lot about the conversational internet these times, but we seldom ask what this really means.
In my opinion a conversation needs a common ground: an agreement between the interlocutors to treat each other equally before the conversation even starts.

If this equality between the interlocutors as an interlocutor is not continually reassured, the conversation stops and two monologues face each other. Otherwise said, if the situation is asymetric for any of the interlocutors, there is no common ground and there can’t be a conversation.

To keep the common ground as an interlocutor, each interlocutor has constantly to screen the other’s interlocutors signals to be reassured that there is still a common ground.

This doesn’t mean at all that there can’t be highly differing arguments exchanged between the interlocutors, on the contrary, it even only permits them. The wonderful thing about a conversation is its double nature: to agree to not agree. This incredible space of freedom which is created during the conversation has the power to transform, to synthesize the two interlocutors views.

Why do I blog this?
In the aborted conversation on an earlier post, this common ground has never been established as my signal for the other interlocutor to come out of anonymity wasn’t accepted. As I already had entered the conversation without an established common ground – I agreed to not agree -, I was truly frustrated the moment I understood by my interlocutors behaviour that he wouldn’t agree on the first step to this conversation.

So what’s my personal conclusion? Probably to have an argument, to open up to a real conversation I will not accept an anonymous interlocutor, especially if I sense that this interlocutor seems to gain an advantage by staying anonymous. If one does not want to reach a common ground, to open up himself, the conversation will be worthless anyway.

PS: If anybody knows people or texts which treat the question of the conversation more thoroughfully, I’am more than happy, if you leave a comment. If you also want to have a conversation with me, please respect the above respectively my blog’s rules.


8 Gedanken zu „A comment is not yet a conversation – a conversation needs a common ground

  1. Matthias

    I think anonymity itself is not a problem; there are a number of perfectly acceptable reasons for someone to stay anonymous. But sometimes people use anonymity for abusive behaviour. And that is a problem.

  2. Roger

    I am still not convinced that a real conversation can happen in anonymity. I probably don’t need to know anything about a person, s/he can be a total stranger to me and to tell from my own experience I had very good face-to-face conversations with total strangers. But that was in meatspace, where there was a face, a body, gestures, a voice – in one word: physicallity.

    On the net this becomes extremely more difficult, so for a conversation to happen some minimal common ground has to be established. Only then I am willing to put energy into a conversation or a debate, I guess.

    PS:You are naturally right with your remark about abusive behaviour anonymity.

    PS2: I am still searching for a good discussion/essay about a reflected definition of conversations. What differentiates them from other forms of communication?

  3. n00b

    If you would be fair, you would have deleted my first comment as well, and not just my response to your accusements. like this, you do not even give a chance to communicate, which is, in my eyes, rather selfish.

    but don’t worry, you proved that you are not interested in comments not fitting in your „let’s all be nice to each other“-scheme, so go ahead and delete this comment again and enjoy communicating with yourself.

  4. Roger

    nOOb without an IP,
    Look you have a chance to show up proper or you don’t – that’s entirely your decision.

    Mine is to do what I want on this blog. If you can’t understand that, I am sorry, but it will remain this way. This is not an open forum for bullshitting* with me, so I will cut out what doesn’t bring both of us forward.

    Now it’s your move. You can change that and we can have a conversation or I consider you have to explain me clearly why you are hidding your name and your IP?

    But to make one thing very clear – i am not evading having an argument. If you read the above I clearly stated: there needs to be a common ground to „not“ agree. If you can’t reach this common ground than better let it be.

    If you do I am happy to debate.

    PS: Related: On Bullshit by Harry Frankfurt

  5. Matthias

    „some minimal common ground has to be established“

    I certainly agree with that. I’ve had tons of very interesting conversations with anonymous participants in newsgroups and mailinglists, so I’d think that whether some common ground has been established, or not, is rather subjective.

  6. Roger

    I fully agree, it is subjective. But a blog is also subjective, meaning by that one wo/man’s voice. And I would go farther than that by analogy, it is one wo/man’s home. There are strangers you let in and others you want to keep out. It’s possible that you continue to speak with them doors locked but it’s not really inspiring.

    In Japan they have the noren, which makes that the visitor has to bow to get in the house. It’s definitively old-fashioned, but I like this humbleness when you enter somebody else’s place. In tea ceremony this is even put further, the door is very small, so you have to bow even more and leave your daily life behind. This act gives all of the participants something back, we all lack a bit today – serenity.

    I like to put the stakes that high, even though I know we will only get there by accident. But this should be an aim – the blog as a space of serenity where debate is fruitful.

    This doesn’t have to be the case for all blogs, not even for all my blogs. Just for this one here. I thought several times to change the subtitle of this blog, but I didn’t. And if you read it carefully it says: Family, Friends, Things… and it really means that.

    If I argue with strangers, I’d go elsewhere…:)

    PS:Thanks for your second comment by the way.

  7. Roger

    Note to the former: By friends I do not mean, people with more or less the same views – that’s absolute boredom. Friends are the ones you love to debate with, because they enrich you.


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