Thursday, June 07, 2007

Debate vs Discussion

I received some criticism recently that has me thinking about the difference between debate and discussion.

I can understand how not every discussion is a debate and how not every debate is a discussion. I can also imagine how it might be frustrating when one person's trying to have a discussion and someone else is trying to have a debate - or vice-versa. Generally speaking, I consider a discussion to be an act of sharing - ideas, thoughts, and even opinions. I more or less consider a debate to be an act of unveiling - of the strengths and weaknesses of different opinions... and, hopefully, of the truth.

I believe there are times when the two intersect. When a discussion results in a difference-of-opinion or a disagreement about the facts, the participants are likely to attempt to resolve that disagreement. This offshoot of the discussion, which may merge back into the main topic, is a debate. Sometimes it's best to leave certain disagreements unresolved or to make a modest effort to find common ground, but there are times when the topic is so weighty or the participants are so invested that the debate continues.

This is perfectly reasonable, in my opinion. And it seems Webster's Dictionary agrees:
an act or instance of discussing; consideration or examination by argument, comment, etc., esp. to explore solutions; informal debate.
It's clear that some people (and I'm not just talking about the source of that recent criticism) see focused disagreement as verbal conflict. Maybe that's true, but I don't believe there's anything wrong with conflict, in and of itself. What matters is how we go about it, how we conduct ourselves. Basically, it's about how we treat each other, but not about whether we agree with each other.

It's not that we disagree, but how we disagree. Well, that's how I see it, anyway.

In the blogosphere, there are places where it's perceived as inappropriate to comment on other people's comments. I guess the idea is that the post is the topic of discussion, so all commentary should be relative to only that post.

I tend to think that those of us within this sphere make up a broad community of-sorts and that those of us who comment on a particular blog topic are an even tighter community. As such, I find it natural for us to interact with each other the way communities do - through agreement and disagreement.

Maybe my perspective is too different from the prevailing opinion, though - whatever that may be. I've already seen how things like removing people from a blogroll is interpreted as the online equivalent of a slap in the face. *shrugs*

Personally, I frequent blogs because I enjoy the content and it suits my lifestyle. If a blog's content ceases to stimulate me or the posts are too infrequent or too long or I find that I'm not mature enough to keep my emotions (and, maybe language, in-check), then I scoot.

My blog roll isn't like those MySpace "friends" lists. I actually read the blogs I list. In fact, I use the blog roll like internet browser "bookmarks." That's how I check those blogs and websites out. When I stop checking them out, they usually come off the list.

If I see that my blog has come off of someone else's list, that doesn't stop me from frequenting their site. Obviously, there are a number of folks who feel differently (and, once again, this is not about the recent falling-out I mentioned). Hell, I recently realized that I don't know who's still got me on their blog roll.

That's largely irrelevant, to me. What is relevant, though, is whether they bother to respond when I and others comment. If not, I tend to lose interest because it feels like we're talking at each other instead of to each other. That's not very fun. (And I need to be careful of doing this, myself.)

There are some blogs I still enjoy, but don't bother to comment on for the above reasons, but those are the exceptions.

Anyway, I guess I'll stop here before I end up talking about every tangential subject under the sun. I'll keep welcoming and questioning and challenging opinions, though, until or unless I'm no longer welcome elsewhere and until no one feels welcome here.

Feel free to comment, whether you agree or disagree. Criticize my opinions or behavior, if you like, or just speak generally on the subjects.


Miz JJ said...

Interesting post. There is one blog I go too where the person goes off if you dare criticize/have a differing opinion of anything they say. This person is not looking for a discussion, or feedback, but a cheerleading squad. I enjoy their writing, but I refuse to comment because I know if it is not exactly what they want to hear they will go off.

My blogroll is much like yours. I do not add blogs to the blog roll I do not read. Also, I do not care who has me on their blog roll. It is not a popularity contest. Read me or not. I will probably still write.

B. Good said...

I'm pretty new to the blog game, so thankfully, I have yet to encounter any direct criticisms of the sort.

Yeah, I'm opinionated, and of course I'm always right. But its no fun when everyone agrees on everything. I love to hear other perspectives, and to expand my brain and my limited view.

But by no means, do I try to "convert" others to my way of thinking (at least, I don't think I do......I don't mean it if I do), and I don't try to prove others wrong (unless I REALLY feel like they are far removed from reality).

Cuz really, its all relative. What it is to me, ain't necessarily what it is to you.

chele said...

Very interesting points. It's amazing to me how seriously some folks take this thing. I try to respond to comments but if I can't respond to everyone than I don't respond to anyone. It depends on how the day is going. I read many more blogs than are on my blogroll ... I just don't have the energy to update. Regarding commenting on others' blogs ... again, it depends on how the day is going.

kim said...

Once my printer is working again, I'm going to print this one.

I, too, was thinking about the difference between discussion and debate, but only coming to define the atmosphere after I held my head in my hand to find out what caused the communication (twice in about eight) to blow up.

I've determined that we've all 'lost it' a few times; or will, anyway. And it's humbling to read your terse comments at a blog I visit, because so much is conveyed in so few lines (an art!).

Question: is it more the norm to have the blog moderator directly respond to the comments placed on the blog, than not? That's still new to me, versus the "community" discussion.

West said...

Great comments and feedback, folks. I appreciate it.

Liz said...

I really like your breakdown of the difference between a discussion and a debate. I think it's a matter of expectations, what happens when one wants to have a discussion and another person wants to debate.

Plus, since so much of communication is non-verbal, it's hard to determine what's really being said and what isn't.

In my opinion, I think you're more of a discusser than a debater.

West said...

Thanks for the feedback, liz.