Plato thinks writing is bad…or at least not all good….do you?

Just as Socrates (Plato actually) questioned the benefits of the written word, what are some of the trade-offs (benefits vs. disadvantages) people make when we communicate with each other online?



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7 responses to “Plato thinks writing is bad…or at least not all good….do you?

  1. boursier

    The major disadvantages to online communication are latency and information scarcity. Face to face communication is packed with information that we hardly consider processing on a daily basis, it is literally second nature. The visual cues that we use to glean tone, intention, nature and interest are absent in most online communications. How this differs from traditional ink-on-paper print communication where an author writes and a viewer reads is that the written version will always be getting older without the prospect of significant updates, whereas online communications in virtual forums and IM services beg for rebuttal. When an indicator as to presence is not always reliable, you’re still not sure if you’re talking to a person or an empty seat half the time, and this absence of persistent communication is probably what produces meaningful contact between people. When the pipeline is fat enough, so to speak, people think less about what they communicate and speed often substitutes for measured response.
    Another implication is that, in face to face contact I am more restrained in my responses. While the consideration that forum posts, IMs and emails don’t dry up but face to face contact exists only in memory should make me more likely to carefully measure and filter the content I post online and be more free in intrapersonal interaction, the opposite seems to have happened: I am restrained in the free forum and a dickhole in the one which is persistent and will follow me. For example: I wrote a poorly structured sentence featuring the word “dickhole,” meaning that forever attached to a persona which bears my name will be an impropriety, a breach of conduct to real world etiquette made in a virtual environment. In this way we are always amending our virtual identities. These, more than Google sponsored openID, relate to the major profile persistence online and a quintessential trade off of online communications: everything is persistent and everything is banal.

  2. dpandkp

    There are some interesting points made in his argument but most of them seem to be argument raising statements. Whether or not he is criticizing how people learn or why they learn is not really the issue at hand. His issue seems to stem from the idea that people will learn things about topics they would otherwise know nothing about and therefore their intelligence is fake or stifled in relation to what their knowledge would be had of they learned about the material on their own or in the first person as opposed to a historian who writes the information down for them to pull at during a later date. Also, he goes into detail about how words can be re-interpreted or even take the form of downright lies depending on who does the writing. Thats all fine and dandy but for me, at best, this is pointless deduction. This is the kind of babble that people who think too much or have too much time on their hands, start spewing. Of course this is how writing is. People can use any medium for just about anything they can fathom. Im sure people have been stabbed to death with forks although this is not their use as per their construction or typical usage scenario.

    “The specific which you have discovered is an aid not to memory, but to reminiscence, and you give your disciples not truth, but only the semblance of truth; they will be hearers of many things and will have learned nothing; they will appear to be omniscient and will generally know nothing; they will be tiresome company, having the show of wisdom without the reality.”

    Especially in today’s age, I would say a good majority of things that people learn or at least consume, is from second, third, or fourth person accounts passed down among the ranks. Now from what I know of Socrates, this would be akin to heresy, for what does the person know, if not discovering for themselves. This may be his point taken to the extreme but it is present nonetheless.

    In respect to the advantages of people communicating in an online world, I think that the ease of accessibility is pretty cool. Phone calls, IM, chat, VoIP, etc etc are all possible with the WWW as we know it. It is also easier to communicate with vast, diverse communities that would otherwise be inaccessible to many folks, especially if it falls outside of what they do in their everyday. With the interweb, all one would essentially have to do is search for a topic that interests them, find a forum, participate, and they would be in a community of people with somewhat of shared interests or shared visions.

    The disadvantages are numerous, and likely, depending on perspective, far outweigh the positives. I know for myself even, punctuation, sentences composed poorly, half thought out ideas, lack of supporting material that accompanies my thoughts (body posture, frowns, smiles, laughs, etc) that could give an in person viewer more of an idea of how I felt. I absolutely hate this element of what the internet has done to me and done to other people who have to get ideas out in a timely manner rather than in an accurate or honest manner. As a society, we are faster becoming people who would rather say or type LOL, than actually doing it. Not only is this annoying but it is also destructive of the human nature. If we could replace emotions, attitudes, or feelings with text, would we? As such, I believe that many many people are forgetting how to communicate as something more than an “is typing” message at the bottom of a mechanical medium. It pains me to witness people who cannot communicate in an environment outside of the digital realm, because to me, and I may be old fashioned, this is the loss of real identity and understanding.

  3. tim s.

    I believe the disadvantages are that you cannot always believe everything you read online. But on the other hand there is plenty of credible information, you just have to be careful where/who you get it from. So as far as blogs sure people can post up some bullshit and expect you to believe it, but it is a very fast and effective way to communicate with MANY others wether exchanging ideas or information. As with written word the information online is passed on and interpreted by different people so it can become somewhat altered or changed by each persons different perception of that info.
    You can get information to a large volume of people very fast, being one of the advantages. Its very useful for finding & communicating with people with similar interests or studies.

  4. Marc

    since 90% of all communication between humans is non verbal you loose the human essence of communication when done online. like when i describe a scenario to someone in real life i can use hand gestures, facial expressions and tone and volume of voice. also the return communication can compound on all of the above. it makes for a more progressive conversation because i don’t have to interpret every word in its literal or intended sense, because i have reinforcement of the information through nonverbal communication. through this i am able to create a much more colorful picture in my head of what the person is talking about.

    it may be that plato was a advocate for having the greatest talent of any living creature, that is so many ways of communication. Why not utilize every bit of communication that we have today. it saddens me that Hollywood: an industry built upon utilizing all of these forms of communication, is starting to struggle to alternative forms of expression.

    a couple of examples would be in order for me to explain my feelings about this. first; would be Hollywood. Hollywood was built upon professionals collaborating together to make beautiful pieces of expression. now we are seeing things like youtube receive almost equal fame and this is generated by everyday experiences caught on low quality video. communication in being dumbed down. another example is the music industry. once a business that, to be successful, you had to perform well in front of crowds, do specials on mainstream TV, have beautiful artwork for your records, go on tour, sell yourself and have all of this on full spectrum analog. then came along the mp3, i feel it is the sole reason the industry is struggling today. it detached the consumer from the artist as a whole, to just their music. you hear all these songs, and most people cant put a name and face to it, let alone the idea of who those artist are and do they really sound like they do in their song? was this song your hearing just some young blocks from this town in socal? where the real talent was, is in the audio engineer who turned their sucky music into something bearable. maybe im going off on a tangent here, but my point is clear we are moving to be more disconnected with the real world. we are moving away from multichannel communication to mono. from that, we have to work harder to get our point across. its as if our minds are getting lazy, or overstimulated by traditional ways of communicating.

  5. Native1

    I believe that you can’t really classify online communication as good or bad. It has it’s geographical advantages but can also lead to faulty information gathering and creating distance between people. As for the concept of presenting your real personality online, I think it really depends on who the person is and their own personality. Some people I know like to be out-right rude in their online text and don’t really care. Does this mean that they want to be portrayed as an asshole? Some of my other friends like to work really hard on creating a decent online presence. When it comes to Plato’s theory on written communication, there are arguments on both sides. I believe that a person will never be able to truelly know or understand an event unless they were there themselves. Opinions and imaginations can disrupt the true information. On the other hand, people can gain a good image of events in history through thorough explanation of the events.

  6. Aldan

    At its core, I see the major benefit of online communication being that it allows people the ability to… communicate – at any given time, and from any location where there’s access to open access to the internet. It may be as easy as talking on the phone, or perhaps even easier than talking in person. This ease, however, may also be its curse.

    It’s easier to make mistakes, it’s easier to conceal oneself, to be vague, to lie, to steal, to hurt someones feelings…

    In any situation, the balance of good and bad are up to you to determine. Since online communication is continuing to grow more and more popular, the freedoms (and also the bad things) continue as well. I think good communication is based on the intent of the communicator(s). If their choice is to steal, so be it. If they decide to skim over the details, so be it. If their intent is solely good, and their writing is beautiful and poetically written, so be it. The choices we make that determine what we get out of any experience, be it online or in the physical world. In short, online communication isn’t perfect – which is the major disadvantage :(

  7. jasonP

    If only new media could become new(er) and along with it would come the ability to send emotion and sarcasm through our blogs,instant messeges,emails.

    Downside however would come the professionalism and seriousness that is quite lacking in this new media world.

    for now all sarcasm will be in Purple text and emoticons sprinkled throughout. :)

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