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“Responsibility” is a word that’s come to mean staidness, boringness even, and at least prudence, caution and duty; it’s certainly not a playful word.

But it actually derives from the idea of being able to respond to something. “With great power comes great responsibility” because you have the ability to respond more meaningfully and effectively to the world around you, to make more of a difference.

And your response will be a better one the more it takes into account the whole picture, the more engaged, nuanced and creative it is.

An engaged, nuanced, creative response? Sounds like play to me. So maybe people who are truly “responsible” are simply people who acknowledge and incorporate the moral dimension to their engagement with, and play in, the world. People who play mindful of all the consequences – who play the wider, larger game.


Repost from an old blog I never actually bothered to maintain; minor edit marked:

Is IT inherently weighted in favour of falsehood?

I’m not just talking about [governmental] Wikipedia edits or the scary prospect of CGI news. Those things are bad enough. I’m talking about the inherent nature of IT, not just electronic but everything back to language.

The way we learn is through repetition. Big Lie theory springs from the fact that it is hard to resist giving some credence, or at least avoid finding it easy to think, something that’s repeated often enough. It’s legacy from our animal past; I’m no behaviourist but Pavlov and Skinner can’t be rejected totally. If something happens a lot we tend to notice and bear it in mind. If that something is an idea, we tend to think in terms of that idea. That’s why it takes generations to work something like sexism or racism out of a culture; by and large a prevalent idea is simply too hard to get out of people’s heads, even if they consciously disagree with it, and you have to rely on the kids who haven’t grown up with the toxic idea as much to work out how to think in ways less tainted by the original lie. Of course, those kids can take things for granted and not see the need to be consciously analytical… but I digress, you get my point.

Assimilation through simple repetition was a viable learning mechanism when culture didn’t shape so much of the world, when we were surrounded by nature, which is what it is and doesn’t pretend otherwise (camouflage and various deceptive adaptations aside). By and large, there was a direct, honest, consistent and unmanipulated link between external information and the real world. Without IT, without language, truth is kind of hard to avoid.
But IT makes the mass production and dissemination of information possible, and doesn’t care whether that information is true or not.

In other words, truth is all around us all the time anyway, and IT gives lies the same reach and (often) more convincing – or at least distracting – presentation.

This is kind of a gloomy view. But it’s a serious question. And I don’t have a good answer.

It is some consolation, though, to think that if there is an effective bias towards falsehood in the medium, it seems likely that there’s a corresponding bias towards truth in most of the people using it. Of course, for their own understandings of  truth…

First, in the sense that it is made, that it is an act of poiesis (Ancient Greek for making, the root of the word poetry). Occasionally justice can be achieved spontaneously or coincidentally, but the same is true of poetry.

Second, in the sense that it expresses some of the finer human motivations: proportionality, legacy, deep engagement and so on.

Third, in the sense that it can be well done, or badly, and that the difference lies substantially in how well it attains those qualities.

Fourth, making it is of less value if it is never shared. Some is private, on the smallest of interpersonal scales, but both private poetry and private justice can enrich the lives of others even if it was never intended for them.

Fifth, that good work incorporates or accounts for as much of its subject as possible, without extraneity. The traditional sense of poetic justice encompasses this idea, that the punishment or reward each person receives is the perfect response to their actions. Even now, good justice is one that responds adequately to people’s actions, allows for the various factors at work, and combines both a reply to past behaviour and a sense of future impact in its response.

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