Last night I stumbled across one of those 'debates' that erupt on Facebook every now and then. You know the ones - where one person posts their view and before you know it there are seventy or so post on the thread. You get the:
•the militant conspiracy theorist
•the jump to someone's defence-er
•the academic with evidence
all putting their throbbing pennyworth in the pot. What fascinates me is how those 'debates' go. This particular one I would surmise had little impact in terms of idea development or opening up others' mind to accepting another viewpoints. In fact, because there was some aggression and personal comments I would go so far as to say it probably shut down a few minds.
This debate in part reflected the way we tend to approach conflict of ideas generally - in law, in education and in meetings: we are adversarial/oppositional. This links to my friend's Philosophy MA thesis - where she explored different ways of communicating to enhance idea development. She wrote her thesis on the back of feeling unable to contribute effectively to academic discussions (despite being extremely intelligent) because they were based on a person putting an idea forward and then everyone ripping it to pieces. (Thinkers - who receive the logic of a debate loudest can cope with this - feelers like my friend - cannot). This also links of course to Edwards De Bono's six thinking hats. Bono observed that in a meeting of egos people compete by shooting down other people's contributions to feel superior. So he suggested you align egos and make them compete not against each other; that you make the competition a race in the same direction so outdoing another builds upon ideas rather than knocking them down.
I guess there are rarely debates that actually ask, 'well what is it we are trying to achieve here?' because what is a debate ever trying to achieve?
•Consensus? No that cannot be right - we will always have different viewpoints.
•An agreed way forward? Yes that sounds better.
•Deepening individuals' understanding of the topic in hand. Yes - I'll go with that.
•develop ideas - yes!
I think effective debating might need an overhaul.
So after pondering all this, I finally went to bed and gave my chap a synopsis of what I had found and thought and he said, 'perhaps that will be the one thing Facebook teaches us!' An optimistic piss-take. He's funny!