flwyd: (darwin change over time)
Programs are a major problem for attempts at unity. As soon as a policy is made specific, the differences must be addressed. Progressives tend to talk about policies and programs. But policy details are not what most Americans want to know about. Most Americans want to know what you stand for, whether your values are their values, what your principles are, what direction you want to take the country in. In public discourse, values trump policies, principles trump policies, policy directions trump specific programs. I believe that values, principles, and policy directions are exactly the things that can unite progressives, if they are crafted properly. The reason that they can unite us is that they stand conceptually above all the things that divide us.

Having those shared values, largely unconscious and unspoken, is not good enough. They have to be out in the open, named, said, discussed, publicized, and made part of everyday public discourse. If they go unspoken, while conservative values dominate public discourse, then those values can be lost–swept out of our brains by the conservative communication juggernaut.
Don't just read about these values here and nod. Get out and say them out loud. Discuss them wherever you can. Volunteer for campaigns that give you a chance to discuss these values loud and clear and out in public.
– George Lakoff, The All New Don't Think of an Elephant!, “What Unites Progressives”

Put another way, values, principles, and policy directions are how you build a movement. Policies are how you implement the vision once the movement has critical mass. When building a movement you don't worry too much about folks with a drastically different world view; you're just trying to find all of your friends. But when it comes to policy, it's important to work with folks from “the other side.” A policy which is supported by many members of some movements has a better chance of surviving than a policy which is supported by all and only one team.
flwyd: (Om Chomsky)
Unfortunately, all too many progressives have been taught a false and outdated theory of reason itself, one in which framing, metaphorical thought, and emotion play no role in rationality. This has led many progressives to the view that facts–alone–will set you free. Progressives are constantly giving lists of facts.

Facts matter enormously, but to be meaningful they must be framed in terms of their moral importance. Remember, you can only understand what the frames in your brain allow you to understand. If the facts don't fit the frames in your brain, the frames in your brain stay and the facts are ignored or challenged and belittled.

When George W. Bush arrived, we got "compassionate conservatism." The Clear Skies Initiative. Healthy Forests. No Child Left Behind. … This is the use of Orwellian language–language that means the opposite of what it says–to appease people in the middle as you pump up the base. … Imagine if they came out supporting a "Dirty Skies Bill" or a "Forest Destruction Bill" or a "Kill Public Education" bill. They would lose. They are aware people do not support what they are really trying to do.

Orwellian language points to weakness–Orwellian weakness. When you hear Orwellian language, note where it is, because it is a guide to where they are vulnerable. They do not use it everywhere. It is very important to notice this and use their weakness to your advantage.

– George Lakoff, The All New Don't Think of an Elephant!
flwyd: (pensive goat)
I'm Right and You're an Idiot: The toxic state of public discourse and how to clean it up by James Hoggan with Grania Litwin, 2016

I went book shopping last weekend so that I would be better prepared to have conversations with conservatives about issues like climate change. This book sounded like exactly what I was looking for. James Hoggan is a professional in the public relations field. He runs DeSmogBlog, a site devoted to "Clearing the PR pollution that clouds climate science" and has published a book on the topic. He set out to write another book devoted to climate advocacy and highlighting climate facts, but he realized that there was a bigger problem: the public space in which our society discusses issues and comes to agree on policy is polluted, sickening democracy and making progress on any tough issue almost impossible. So he decided instead to explore what was clogging the public square and how we can engender more productive communication and enable action on important problems.

Hoggan structured the book's chapters around people he interviewed, most experts in some mode of communication. The result is a book where each part is clear and interesting, but it can be difficult to find an overall narrative. I came away with several important insights but without a full practical framework for making things better. The epilogue does help tie things together, and I'd recommend reading that first, then deciding if you want to read the rest of the book.

Hoggan's background concern of climate change and environmental concerns shows up throughout the book; most chapters share the interviewee's thoughts on how people relate to environmental facts or arguments. And while I bought the book hoping to improve my ability to have conversations around climate change, I think the book would have been stronger if he'd dug into specifics on several distinct issues. He mentions migration, gun violence, and other "big challenge" problems in passing but never talks about how someone might approach those particular problems using the ideas in the book.

Some of my key takeaways:
Experts on a topic (e.g. scientists) make decisions based on facts, rational debate, and deep investigation. Most non-experts make decisions based on emotion and narrative.
In a modern democracy, the support of non-experts is needed for any major policy. Facts are important in deciding what to do, a story (particularly one with values or a moral) is crucial in getting people to do it.
People have a self-conception in which they generally do the right thing and believe in the truth. When something challenges this view, people experience cognitive dissonance, which is uncomfortable.
If new information is presented in a way that's too shocking to that belief, people are more likely to assume that the information is wrong than that they've been wrong. It's therefore very important not to structure an argument as "You're wrong" or, especially, "You're a bad person." Instead, find shared values and express a policy proposal as a way of expressing those values.
Tell your own story; otherwise people who oppose your idea will tell your story in a way that undercuts you.
Once you've told your story, avoid responding to attacks. It's easier for folks to see an attacker as offensive if you aren't playing defense.
Anger is important in motivation, and appealing to anger "on your side" can be a good way to get folks involved in an issue.
But it's super important to drop the anger as you start talking to folks who don't get angry by the same things you do. If someone feels that you're speaking to them out of anger or that you perceive them as an enemy, they aren't likely to take your words to heart.
Self-righteousness and purity can hurt your position.
If the public sees two sides loudly asserting their own position, they aren't in a good position to evaluate the arguments and they may conclude that the issue is just a matter of personal preference or align with the side that has better hair or a slicker marketing delivery.
Change is scary.
People resist imposed change more than when they feel they have agency.
Inevitability is a terrible motivator.
To take action, people need to feel that there's hope and that what they do will have an effect.
Compassion is key to communication.
You can't make progress working with an enemy. But you can make great progress working with a fellow human being that you understand, respect, and disagree with.

One of the best paragraphs in the book comes in the epilogue:
People don't start out mired in hostility. The situation evolves. When someone publicly disagrees with something we feel strongly about, we perceive them as aggressors and we begin to question their motives and intentions. When people criticize or condemn our cause or our reasoning, our defense mechanisms kick in. Anger simmers and escalates. When people on both sides of an argument draw their positions from the perceived bad behavior of the other, they eventually start treating each other as enemies, and this provokes a perpetual shoving match and eventual gridlock.
flwyd: (darwin change over time)
The scientific community assumes the same rules of communication are always applicable and rational, that people are attentive, open minded, persuaded by facts and believe that those who are presenting information are people of goodwill, and not deliberately trying to manipulate them. But none of those things are true.

Yankelovich and Rosell have identified a process that they call the public learning curve that describes maturing public opinions, where people's views evolve from poorly informed reactions to more thoughtful conclusions. The three-stage process begins with building awareness and consciousness (where advocates and the media typically do a good job). The seecond stage involves working through wishful thinking and denial, resistance to change and mistrust, grasping at straws, deliberate obfuscation and lack of urgency (which is where dialogue comes in). The third part of the learning curve is when people come to resolution (which is handled by decision-makers and government institutions). "Much of our work focuses on improving the 'working through' stage, which our society does not handle well and where critical issues like climate change can get stuck for years or decades," said Rosel.
– James Hoggan, I'm Right and You're an Idiot: The toxic state of public discourse and how to clean it up, chapter 1 with Daniel Yankelovich and Steve Rosel

It is not a wise strategy to define a situation as inevitable or out of control. "This is a negation of politics–because you don't do politics with inevitability," explained Latour. If you send a message to people that there's no other possibility, that it's too late–the result is inaction. Latour suggested that the message must give them the will to find a way out of the dilemma.
– ibid., chapter 7 with Bruno Latour
flwyd: (McCain Palin Abe Maude Simpsons)
Today's Conference on World Affairs Howard Higman Memorial Plenary was by former South Carolina congressman Robert Inglis, who is now the executive director of republicEn.org, a site and nonprofit organization run by conservatives concerned about climate change focused on swaying other conservatives about the issue. The talk was entitled "How Free Enterprise Can Solve Climate Change" (video here) but it wasn't so much an economics presentation as a discussion about what it would take to convince conservatives (and particularly conservative U.S. politicians) to implement a carbon tax. In particular, he argued that for the right wing to buy in, it needs to be a revenue-neutral, border-adjusted carbon tax.

Revenue-neutral means the money earned by the tax needs to be offset by cutting taxes somewhere else. The plan needs to be revenue-neutral because you can't get the Republican party to agree to a carbon tax which will also increase the size of government.

Border-adjusted means that an import tax on carbon would be imposed if the goods came from a country which didn't tax carbon at the source of production. The border adjustment is important because it would let individual countries set up taxes on their own (without requiring worldwide coordinated government action), but would make American-made goods which paid the carbon tax (or were developed with cleaner technology) competitive with foreign-made goods from countries which use cheap but dirty production methods.

The focus wasn't so much on the mechanics of how such a scheme might be implemented, but rather on how climate change believers might effect action on the issue through a congress whose position over the last two decades has ranged from skeptical to hostile. Speaking to a Boulder audience dominated by folks on the left, Inglis talked about how to frame the conversation in terms that a conservative (like your uncle Charlie at the holidays) can support. Inglis's own history went from opposing climate change legislation based on no knowledge except that Al Gore supported it (mid-90s) to introducing a bill which would tax carbon and cut payroll tax (2009). The bill died, and he was thanked for his efforts by being defeated by the Tea Party in the 2010 primaries.

Inglis's biggest topic of framing was on tax. A plan that sets out to make things like manufacturing and driving more expensive is on shaky ground with Republicans already; if it sends more money to Washington, they'll stop listening. He wasn't especially particular about the way in which taxes were reduced, though he called out a corporate income tax reduction as a particularly attractive option for swaying Republican lawmakers. He said that many liberals seemed unwilling to reduce corporate income tax in exchange for a carbon tax and he questioned how much those liberals were truly convinced that climate change was the most important issue of the generation. (One could play the same trick on any number of issues: offer to cut income tax but make it revenue-neutral by imposing a tax on firearms and ammunition and see how committed conservatives are to income tax reduction.)

Of the revenue-neutral schemes Inglis mentioned: payroll tax, income tax, or a dividend, I think the latter is best-suited to balance a carbon tax. If the dividend were distributed equally to all American citizens, it would be a much more progressive tax benefit than cutting the corporate rate. Furthermore, an annual cash payment to everyone, even if they are currently unemployed and thus not paying much payroll tax, would help people cover the costs of increased energy bills, buy a more energy-efficient car, move away from rising sea levels, or otherwise cope with the new world of climate change.

I asked Inglis about the details of border-adjustment and whether it would account for non-tax incentives which lower the price of carbon production like foreign aid to Saudi Arabia and Venezuela or governmental policies by a country like China which provide polluting industries with benefits like unrestricted access to land or other perks. Inglis wasn't concerned with internalizing all externalities, and he also said the import duty would be based on the carbon content of an American-equivalent product, meaning that as American production becomes less-polluting, carbon-derived imports will get cheaper. I'll let the economists hammer out the details on this front, though.

I think Inglis's most important focus isn't on the policy specifics, but on reaching out to Republicans and conservatives as one of their own. He (and the folks republicEn can gather to their rallying call) can speak the free enterprise orthodoxy lingo that progressives aren't as fluent in and he can appeal to them from heart-felt religious conviction grounds upon which even religious liberals, let alone secular scientists, don't stand. (This isn't to say that religious liberals don't have religious conviction, but that their dogma has evolved so significantly from conservative religious dogma that attempts at convergence mostly end in a lot of barking.)

Unfortunately, the opportunities for reasonable and rational engagement across ideological lines seems to be shrinking faster than polar ice caps. In the past, the stereotypical conservative uncle Charlie and liberal niece Linda listened to similar news sources and spent time with overlapping sets of people and so could converse with a shared view of consensus reality. Today's media (broadcast and social) is so specialized that it seems difficult for folks on either side of the spectrum to agree on terminology and facts, let alone discuss a policy approach with a cool head. And it seems like at a holiday gathering that Linda's mostly on defense in response to Charlie's rants about gays or immigrants or guns tough to even start a conversation about sea level rise and crop failure. If instead of a holiday, Linda tries to start the conversation on Facebook, it's easy for Charlie to glance at the subject and skip right over it, avoiding discomfort and hitting the Like button on an inspirational message in a colorful font. Meanwhile, broadcasters and publishers can get more advertising eyeballs if they present the "opposing" side as other or untouchable, which puts politicians interested in collaboration in danger of being scorned by their in-group.

Climate change is a global problem and it needs pan-ideological work to address it. Unfortunately, building a coalition ain't what it used to be.
flwyd: (I *kiss* linguists)
This American Life recently ran a show called Birds & Bees about explaining tricky things to children. The first act focuses on university freshmen attending presentations about sexual consent. The presenters' goal is to get students to internalize that explicit, specific, verbal consent is required before having sex. But the students are perhaps more interested in the subtleties of how to get a "yes" than the need to obtain one.

If we followed the "consent workshop" model literally, it would lead to some really awkward conversations:
MAN AT BAR: Hello.
MAN: I think you are attractive.
WOMAN: Thank you for the compliment.
MAN: Would you like to engage in sexual intercourse?
WOMAN: Yes, I would like to do that.
Actual consent negotiation is way less direct and more fluid. Importantly, it also builds on a lot of context that is basically impossible to simulate in a room with a whiteboard, a few dozen chairs, and a bunch of curious teenagers.

Since sexual negotiation, not to mention sex itself, is almost always done in private, people don't have a lot of opportunities to learn how to do it by observation. "Can I watch while you obtain consent to have sex with your partner" would be an off-putting question to almost anyone. Media doesn't help much either: movie sex usually looks spontaneous not because Hollywood has an anti-consent bias but because it makes for a more enjoyable story. The hero and heroine don't negotiate the sex they're going to have for the same reason we don't see anyone making exact change or tying their shoes in a movie: it doesn't usually advance the plot or add to the value of a scene.

So if people don't want to demonstrate actual sexual consent in public and it's unlikely to be modeled in popular cinema, what can we do? Let's create our own consent-focused short films. In a one minute YouTube video a few people can easily create a realistic context and have a reasonable conversation about negotiated consent. Rather than a stilted conversation in a classroom it can be set in an actual bar or a bedroom. Instead of an all-verbal skit, actors can show the crucial role that body language plays. And with a lot of videos available, the negotiation can take a lot of different directions: sometimes ending with a "yes," sometimes with a "not now," and sometimes with a "no thank you" and showing folks how to gracefully respond to each answer. People would learn not just that consent is crucial but also how to effectively get consent. People would learn not just "No means no" but how to both give and receive a "no," life skills that a lot of people struggle with even in nonsexual situations.

So let's make this happen. Let's get thousands of people making YouTube videos about how consent works for them. Let's upvote the ones that are impressive or wise or funny. Let's hashtag the pants off this thing and have it go viral like HSV. Let's get videos from straight folks, gay folks, kinky folks, vanilla folks, confident folks, shy folks, polite folks, and blunt folks. Let's get amateurs and professionals. Let's get people talking about how they like to be asked and finding out how they can be better askers. Let's have less rape and more consensual sex.
flwyd: (transparent ribbon for government accoun)
Obama's speech about surveillance last week featured the following paragraph which gets modern cybersecurity totally backwards:
We cannot prevent terrorist attacks or cyberthreats without some capability to penetrate digital communications, whether it's to unravel a terrorist plot, to intercept malware that targets a stock exchange, to make sure air traffic control systems are not compromised or to ensure that hackers do not empty your bank accounts. We are expected to protect the American people; that requires us to have capabilities in this field.
This train of thought made sense during the cold war. Communication systems built by and used in the Soviet Union were different than those built in the U.S. So if the NSA could simultaneously find and keep secret flaws in a Russian phone system while ensuring security flaws in American phone systems got fixed.

On the Internet, that game doesn't work anymore. Tech companies, open source groups, and standards bodies sell and distribute hardware, software, and protocols globally. Countries and companies throughout the world use the same routers, the same operating systems, and the same secure communications protocols. Every undisclosed security hole and every undetected backdoor that the NSA has at its disposal to "penetrate digital communications" is a tool that attackers have to harm the targets Obama claims the NSA is trying to protect. The stock exchanges and air traffic control systems and banks are using the same networking gear, the same database software, the same VPNs, and the same web browsers as the plotting terrorists, hacking criminals, and enemy governments.

Even if the NSA only uses their powers for good, the more "capabilities in [the digital spying] field" they have the less safe American interests are from foreign spies, criminals, and terrorists. The nation will be more secure if our communications technologies are robustly secure than if we can listen in on all the world's chatter. And by making American communications more secure, the world's communications will be more secure.

AIM is on its last legs

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012 08:30 pm
flwyd: (dogcow moof!)
Apparently all the AIM developers have been fired by AOL.

I'm rather disappointed by this. I've had an AIM account since '97 or '98, which predates flwyd.dhs.org (1999), trevorstone.org (2002), LiveJournal (2001), and (of course) GMail. The communication systems I used before that -- bvsd.k12.co.us, colorado.edu, nyx.net, irc.undernet.org -- don't get my attention much these days, but I've been logged into AIM pretty much continuously (summers in college on dialup) since I was a freshman.

AIM really brought real-time internet communication to the masses. IRC and ytalk and other protocols had been around a long time, but getting your technically challenged classmate to install mIRC and find you on a channel was a way bigger hurdle than saying "Hey, install AIM and we can talk about this project tonight." Since then, a bunch of other protocols and clients have sprung up, with pretty much the same feature set: A small window with back and forth chat, a scrolling buddy list with with icons and groups, different noises for different event types.

I suppose most of the AIMers are using Facebook Instant Messenger or whatever they call it over there. But unlike Facebook and Google Chat and, to some extent, Yahoo! and MSN messenger, there never seemed to be an assumption or a desire to get AIM users to be "full" AOL users. Anybody could download a client, even written by someone else, and create an AOL account that was only ever used for AIM.

In the last year or so, most of my AIM messages were from the same sex chat bot, which was a lot less amusing than the salmon precursor to ChatRoulette. But there are folks in my Buddy list that I'd be interested in talking to, but who I don't know by any other contact means. So if I'm in your buddy list, pick your favorite alternate contact Trevor method. My most ubiquitous chat medium is trevorstone at gmail, but you can also find me at pinkflwyd on Yahoo, or [livejournal.com profile] flwyd@livejournal.com on Jabber/XMPP (you can even post by IMing [livejournal.com profile] frank). Adium also has me persistently signed in to OkCupid, so yeah.

Or maybe not. But I can still be disappointed.
flwyd: (Trevor glowing grad macky auditorium)
Key takeaways from Intuition, Technology, and Communication at The 2010 Conference on World Affairs.

Intuition is a human skill for coming to a conclusion given all the varied data we've gathered. Technology provides us with a lot more data so hopefully humans can have better intuitions. For instance, a human with a laptop and a chess program can beat a chess supercomputer that a human alone cannot beat.

Intuitions are often culturally conditioned. American intuition when the phone rings is to answer it. Russian (Soviet?) intuition when the phone rings is not to, because it's probably someone who wants you to fix something.

The most useful recordings for building Roger Ebert's new TTS voice were commentary tracks from DVDs. Future movie commentaries will literally be recycled from his old movie commentaries.

There are TTS systems that let you add markup for inflection, but it makes typing even slower, you'll far further behind in the conversation. What if there were Unicode characters that indicated sense and emotion? ;-) is okay at indicating irony and ALL CAPS can do emphasis, but there's a lot more nuance that could be added.

Some of the best writers are lousy face-to-face conversationalists.

New Public Key

Friday, October 19th, 2007 11:41 pm
flwyd: (daemon tux hexley)
I set up a GPG public key in February, but realized tonight that since I haven't used it in eight months I have no idea what the passphrase is. My mind went back to some ideas I came up with at the time, but none were winners. Since nobody's ever sent me any encrypted mail, I threw the old key away and made a new one. Feel free to send me any email, trivial or super-secret, using this key.

Congress and the White House want to give retroactive immunity to telecomm companies which break the law and divulge your personal communications. If all mail you send is encrypted, the NSA can't assume that it's important just because it's encrypted.

My public key is also on my website: http://trevorstone.org/publickey.html
If you ever note a discrepancy in public keys or want to be sure you have the right key, contact me personally, verify my identity, and get my digital fingerprint.

Version: GnuPG v1.4.6 (Darwin)


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