The great thing about an LJ Friendslist is that two totally unrelated ideas will come together in a flash of light, because you will read them inside five minutes of each other, and prove to be not so unrelated at all.


Via [ profile] james_nicoll, we get You're an Author? Me too!:

In 2007, a whopping 400,000 books were published or distributed in the United States, up from 300,000 in 2006, according to the industry tracker Bowker, which attributed the sharp rise to the number of print-on-demand books and reprints of out-of-print titles. University writing programs are thriving, while writers’ conferences abound, offering aspiring authors a chance to network and “workshop” their work. The blog tracker Technorati estimates that 175,000 new blogs are created worldwide each day (with a lucky few bloggers getting book deals). And the same N.E.A. study found that 7 percent of adults polled, or 15 million people, did creative writing, mostly “for personal fulfillment.”

In short, everyone has a story — and everyone wants to tell it. Fewer people may be reading, but everywhere you turn, Americans are sounding their barbaric yawps over the roofs of the world, as good old Walt Whitman, himself a self-published author, once put it.

And via the folks at Making Light, we get Clay Shirky's Web 2.0 speech on cognitive surplus:

That seems like a cute moment. Maybe she's going back there to see if Dora is really back there or whatever. But that wasn't what she was doing. She started rooting around in the cables. And her dad said, "What you doing?" And she stuck her head out from behind the screen and said, "Looking for the mouse."

Here's something four-year-olds know: A screen that ships without a mouse ships broken. Here's something four-year-olds know: Media that's targeted at you but doesn't include you may not be worth sitting still for. Those are things that make me believe that this is a one-way change. Because four year olds, the people who are soaking most deeply in the current environment, who won't have to go through the trauma that I have to go through of trying to unlearn a childhood spent watching Gilligan's Island, they just assume that media includes consuming, producing and sharing.

One of these things is very like the other.

[ profile] mrissa has me thinking about introversion and extroversion. Specifically, how we use those labels, what assumptions they carry, what their social function is.

(Warning. This is gonna get kind of nitpicky and technical in a semantics/philosophy/armchair psych kinda way, and I'm not sure where it's going until it gets there. Fasten your seatbelts.)

We throw around the idea of introversion in a way that's odd mostly for its essentialism, its description of something in one's social conduct that is utterly not malleable or arguable. And I'm not saying it is malleable and all those people really ought to just buck up and conform to the social expectations of their local village. The point is the assumption, the way we appeal to that label. We're not keen on linking permanent traits with patterns of sociability these days or dividing people into 'kinds' of people. Current society really is down on models of behaviour that are not modifiable by some means, that's hardwired into us. The expectations are for behaving to the expected social patterns regardless of who we are or what we're doing at home. Which is why this interchange, if you look at it, is weird:

"Aren't you having fun?"
"No, I'm an introvert."

Game over, right? There's no arguing that. There aren't a lot of social labels we can appeal to in a way that shuts down any rebuttal. For example:

"Aren't you having fun?"
"No, I'm a Taurus."

There's another bundle of character traits given a label. But Tauruses are still expected to give way when their local norms say the appropriate social practice is not to be stubborn. The Early Modern Melancholic was still expected to provide nice conversation at the dinner table. Misanthropes can hate people all they want, but the prevailing connotation to the word implies that really, they shouldn't. There's an underlying assumption in that, whether it's a true or false one: the idea that deviance from norms of sociability in these cases is a choice. That the people under these labels could, if they really wanted to, just shape up and behave like everyone else.

Nobody seems to do that with introversion and extroversion.

Sure, yeah, people do it to individuals all the time. But there's a difference in quality there: people refuse to believe that you're really an introvert or extrovert, rather than feeling that introversion or extroversion in and of itself is a chosen social deviance. What's being questioned is your inclusion in the category, not the validity of the actual category. I don't know that people consider "introvert" and "extrovert" as...well, excuses for being a brat.

So introversion doesn't pattern like a bundle of character traits given a label. What does it pattern like, that quality to the label of social behaviours against the norm that are rooted in permanence, subject to lack of choice, superceding the will? It patterns with mental illness.

Try again:

"Aren't you having fun?"
"No, I'm clinically depressed."

Nothing to argue there. Person didn't choose that, can't do anything about it, will continue to behave in a way that you do not feel fits the norms of sociability in this situation. No culpability. Move along, right?

That's even weirder.

Because mental illness has that perjorative connotation. There are campaigns to reduce the stigma of depression, and that's all it takes to prove that there is a stigma. But...introversion and extroversion don't. Yet we still assign them no culpability for flouting the norms of the social situation, whether we think that situation calls for a higher or lower level of social engagement.

But I that social patterning we do without thinking getting at something?

I'm an introvert. It's rather severe, actually. I learned to put on otherwise when I started working in retail, and that professionally detached false face is my survival skill. I don't know that my introversion is actually a natural part of my personality, though. My parents had a big chunky portable video camera when I was a kid, and before school-age I was actually pretty extroverted. I couldn't wait to engage with other people. I wanted to talk to them and hear what they had to say and sincerely enjoyed other people. I have video proof.

Then, as the standard geek sob story goes, I was teased regularly and severely, to the point of people encouraging suicide, for the next ten-odd years.

I'm not surprised that people require a hell of a lot of energy from me, that engaging with them wears me out. I'm running a lot more software in my head for every human interaction: what this person's saying, what they might really mean, whether there are openings in this I'm leaving for them to do something unto me, what their body language says, where my escape routes are. I can run my professional persona on autopilot and it requires relatively less energy, but actually engaging with a human being is exhausting. No wonder being by myself is preferred, more energy-efficient, and much more relaxing.

I have no idea if this theory holds water for me, never mind other people. It's not even really a theory: I'm sort of just thinking out loud here. Personalities change as you grow. It could be indeed a natural predisposition that came up, coupled with my pain-in-the-ass childhood, and intensified an effect that was already going to be there.

But I really do wonder at this assumption we have that introversion and extroversion are natural and hardwired components of a personality, and the way we give them social leeway like nothing else gets without a corresponding social penalty. I wonder if we do correlate introversion with damage in some way I can't quite get at -- read it as a coping mechanism for a trauma even if it isn't that thing -- because it's not like our society is shy about telling people who have natural and hardwired preferences that they ought to suck it up and be different. Unless we think it's because of damage. Then we get out of their way.

Why's this the exception?

Because it is. Because the easiest way I know to get out of some of those stressful situations is a demure smile and a "no, sorry, I'm kind of an introvert".

November 2016

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