Over on the pycnoline blog they’ve coined the term “tech brain” for a phenomena they’ve spotted amongst communities of technologists who clamber towards ideologies from celebrities in their world and call to their authority to smack down conversations raising a more nuanced view.
It’s clear that lots of people are seeing this affect, but I’d like to point out that it should be widened from the tech sphere. This happens on Dungeons and Dragons twitter too.
Cults of personality are strong on twitter, whether the object of admiration is willing or not. Talk about Zak Smith’s idea for building a mystery story in a role play game, and you’ll be lampooned by those who think you’re supporting him at a time where the community is attempting to exile him.
Mention the idea of railroading – a technique for game leaders (or “DM”) of taking the direction of the story out of the player’s hands – and you’ll hear from dozens of people quoting the internet famous telling you why you’re the worst DM on Earth.
There’s no space for talking about ideas outside the scope of black and white categories decided by the loudest part of the Internet. In turn, this allows them to set the agenda and only popularist topics are up for conversation. In a place where all I want to do is talk about is how plumbing works in fantasy worlds, that conversation just isn’t on the table right now. If I start it, it’ll be moments before someone with a different motive finds their way in.
This isn’t strictly to do with Twitter though. It’s very difficult to walk into a room of strangers and begin a conversation hoping to have some nuance around it. There’s too much stage setting required; I know there’s ethical implications about this question, I know this idea isn’t popular right now, I know this has been talked about before…
My point is that if you’re looking for good conversation, a public forum like Twitter and Hacker News just isn’t the place. Only loud, black-and-white thoughts can be heard there.
The conversation elsewhere: