Saturday, June 18, 2011

Communication

Preface!


Part One!

This post, as many of them do, started as a comment on another blog. This particular one was in response to a post by my Internet Friend in Akron, Ohio. Hi, CG!

Part Two!

I've been hacking away at this post for most of the afternoon. (With breaks, naturally. I've had lunch and taken a nap and stuff.) But for the most part, it's a sprawling monstrosity. I'm not going to edit it or make it more concise. I'm just going to allow this to be a sounding off.

Part Three!

My own "shame on you" on-bike communication tools consist of "No!" shaking my head, like the author in the linked post did, and in some situations giving a head-shake/thumbs-down combo. I like to think this combination renders a motorist helpless with guilt.

Communication!

Miscommunication causes the majority of problems that occur person-to-person.

(Actually, all the world's problems result from the fact that there are too many people. But accepting that that is an inevitability, let us continue.)

Humans are expressive, communicative creatures. We communicate so hard. So hard! We speak words, and we assume certain contextual postures and stances while speaking them that also convey messages, and we adopt certain inflections and vocabularies while speaking that add extra layers of meaning to our original message, and our facial expressions—on top of already established body language—can add yet another layer of complexity. And we won't even get into layers of meaning one can achieve though sarcasm, metaphor, mixed words, and other read-between-the-lines stuff.

Point being, communication! Wow, we do it so hard! In so many complicated ways!

Driving in a car makes you inhuman!

The vast majority of vehicular humans are deprived this most essential tie to humanity. Anybody operating a motorized vehicle is experiencing their surroundings—and their fellow human beings—at such velocity, and in such an enclosed—dare I say "caged off?"—environment that they are rendered inexpressive, incommunicative, and perhaps inhuman.

(Tom Vanderbilt writes on this to great effect in his book, Traffic, which I recommend so hard. Even if you just skim through it, there will be much gleaning.)

In a car, you are denied words, eye contact, and body language. You are essentially limited to two forms of expression: turn signals (which are ridiculously lame forms of expression) and horn-honking (which is a hopelessly vague and, sadly, an intrinsically aggressive form of communication).

You can't see your fellow motorist through their suit of car armor. What you can see is usually the rear end of the car in front of you. It is ridiculous. It is dehumanizing. It is infuriating. It is provocative.

It makes you a monster.

It makes you a person who might call a fellow citizen of the road a dirty whore even if that's something wildly out of character for you. It might be something you'd never dream of doing face to face with a person with whom you might enjoy other, more civil, means of communication.

But in a car, you are rendered dumb. You don't have the luxury of other, more humane and civil avenues of communications.

So you end up screaming "Dirty whore" at people.

Because you are left with few alternatives as far as communication goes.

Bullying!

The Internet in general, and Youtube specifically in my experience, is notorious for allowing—perhaps encouraging?—bullying.

Randall Monroe, one of my favorite Internet Culture commentators, once commentatedto great success—on the hateful YouTube comment phenomenon.

In my mind, there is little difference between the false anonymity granted to you as an Internet user and the false anonymity granted to you as a vehicular citizen of the road.

In both scopes, bullying is intolerable, and I will call you out on it.

In both scopes, your anonymity is a false construction.

There have been stories in my local newspaper about cops who have lost their jobs for posting "anonymous" hateful/bigoted comments on local sites. And, in my workplace, when I am considering interviewing applicants, I google your ass.

Internet anonymity isn't what you thought it was.

There have been stories in my feeds about drivers who have been rightfully damned and condemned for plowing into cyclists.

Vehicular anonymity isn't what you thought it was, either.

In Closing

Don't be a dick.

Anywhere.

In your car? On the Internet? Seriously, anywhere? Don't be a dick.

Because anonymity is a falsehood.

You are responsible for your actions. There will be consequences for your actions.

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