[ by Charles Cameron — hypertext, rhetoric, glass bead games, civility ]
My second attempt at a format for online debate is, as I said, a variant on the “Dart Board” sometimes used for playing my HipBone Games (see, for instance, my solo game War is Sexy, says Dawn).
The idea here would be to format a blog post and series of 7 comments by a Querent (the one with the Question) who may also be the Umpire — both roles would be issue-neutral — a Proponent who would propose and support a thesis, and an Antagonist who would oppose it.And I should add, right at the outset, that this is a formal process for the named participants — as a white tie debate at the Oxford Union is a formal process — no matter how raucus the kibitzers may get, and accordingly requires a day or two between moves to allow for consideration, research and preparation.
The Querent makes the first move in the first position on the board, giving it short move title (short enough to be typed on the board graphic in the space currently occupied by the word “issue‘) and a paragraph or so of move content setting forth concisely the issue to be discussed — ideally via an issue neutral anecdote or quote. After each move, the Querent (or a graphically inclined observer) would ideally update and post the game board after inserting the relevant move title.
[ Those who are not among the named participants may of course kibitz at any time… ]
The Proponent next carefully chooses a pithy quote or anecdote, gives it a move title (as above), and posts the move title, the chosen move content (the anecdote or quote selected), the link claimed (setting forth concisely the nature of his or her argument as it relates to the move content of the Querent‘s issue), and if she or he so chooses, a comment (the comments in a HipBone Game are intended for meta-conversations among the various players).
The Antagonist then similarly chooses an anecdote or quote, and posts move title, move content, links claimed — in this case, showing the links with both the issue as stated at position 1 in the Querent’s move, and the thesis as stated in position 2 in the Proponent’s move — and a comment if so desired.
Okay, that’s thesis and antithesis, the Umpire then posts a move title, some move content and links claimed to all three positions in play, with a comment if so desired, in the fourth position (labeled synthesis).
The Antagonist plays next in position 5 — playing move title, move content, links claimed, comment — providing an instance with which to dispute the thesis, and linking as per the rule just stated to the thesis proposed at position 2 — only!
Since position 5 is only connected to position 2 of those positions in play, no other links should be claimed.
Similarly, the protagonist then plays in position 6, a move which I’ve called the “prothetical” instance without a clue as to whether prothetical is a real word — tho’ I like it — linking only to the antithesis in position 2, which it seeks to refute.
Move 7 is by far the trickiest of the game, and is made by the Umpire, who now has to provide move content that synthesizes the game thus far, explaining links claimed to positions 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 (ie to the original thesis, antithesis and synthesis, but moving the synthesis to encompass also the two instances)…
But the Umpire can take consolation in the fact that in the final move 8, the Querent gets to raise afresh those questions which remain — now that both sides have had their say, and the Umpire has attempted reconcile them.
Three quotes, the first one on debate:
Harmony among conflicting viewpoints, not the victory of one of them, should be the ultimate goal…
— from Bizell & Herzberg, The Rhetorical Tradition, as quoted here
The second moving from debate to dialog:
One way of helping to free these serious blocks in communication would be to carry out discussions in a spirit of free dialogue. Key features of such a dialogue is for each person to be able to hold several points of view, in a sort of active suspension, while treating the ideas of others with something of the care and attention that are given to his or her own. Each participant is not called on to accept or reject particular points of view; rather he or she should attempt to come to understanding of what they mean.
— David Bohm, Science Order and Creativity, p 86
And the third, from Buddhist Madhyamika philosophy, moving into the contemplative realm where all answers are seen as the stepping off points for open questions:
I wanted to use one word in Tibetan that I’ve found very useful for myself… and this is the word zöpa.. this translates usually as patience or endurance or tolerance, but there’s this very subtle translation of zöpa, which is the ability to tolerate emptiness basically, which is another ways of saying the ability to tolerate that things don’t exist in one way, that things are so full and infinite and leave you so speechless, and so undefinably grand – and these are just descriptive words, but you have to use some words to communicate, I guess — the ability bear that, that fullness, like we’ve been talking about, not turning away, not turning away.
— Elizabeth Mattis-Namgyel, in (if I recall) a Shambhala-sponsored retreat video
A blank Dart board, downloadable for your convenience: