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Flame warriors on the Internet: The politics of cyber-acculturation

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  • Sunthar Visuvalingam
    This digest is an analytical reflection on the unprecedented problems, best practices, and collective goals, of cyber-dialogue through drawing our attention to
    Message 1 of 2 , Jan 1, 2006
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      This digest is an analytical reflection on the unprecedented problems, best
      practices, and collective goals, of cyber-dialogue through drawing our
      attention to the most typical flame-warriors caught in the act of falling
      into their predefined stereotype. While Sunthar’s exchange from May 28, 2001
      onwards with Jeff Conklin on the technological infrastructure—especially the
      problems of asynchronous (i.e., email) communication (as opposed to
      face-to-face meetings)—for maximizing meaningful discussion across the
      Internet serves as the larger context, the focus here is rather on emotional
      blockages, stereotyped behavior, and group dynamics After Arun Gupta had
      first drawn our attention—through posting to the OpenRISA (= Jnâna) list (
      <http://groups.yahoo.com/group/jnana/message/128> on 6th June 2004) the URL
      of the UK-based Politics Forum—to Mike Reed’s amusing gallery of
      illustrations and descriptions, I began to draw upon this resource to
      capture, highlight, record, and (re-) interpret some of the recurring
      interpersonal dynamics on the Abhinavagupta and related forums, thereby also
      using these, now frozen, exchanges to better understand the psychosocial
      barriers to productive communication even outside of cyberspace (i.e., in
      ‘real’ life). Several of these ‘dia-gnostic’ posts present a cluster of
      flame-warriors in sequence not only because they interact, as if in a
      pre-scripted play, in the dialogue sequence that has been spliced in, but
      also because this concrete (and often colorful) context affords us deeper
      insights into how these caricatured archetypes of online ‘personalities’
      feed off, and even metamorphose into, each other.

      The following compilations of exchanges may be enjoyed as successive
      disjointed Acts in an ongoing cyber-drama that flouts all the (Aristotelian)
      conventions regarding unity of time and place, with no discernible
      beginning, collective purpose, nor satisfactory denouement, and where the
      same characters often (re-) appear in varied, shifting, and sometimes even
      contradictory roles. For the sake of intelligibility, I have repeatedly
      stepped out to assume the role of ‘stage-manager’ (sûtra-dhâra) to introduce
      each Act by providing its context, leitmotif, cross-purposes, and ensuing
      moral, before stepping back in (and not just as the ‘mischievous’
      clown-vidûSaka!) to ensure that this all-encompassing and ongoing drama does
      not get entirely derailed. For, quite apart from the individual
      battle-scarred warriors, otherwise caught up in themselves, who have had to
      make a permanent exit (like the demons asuras who attempted to disrupt
      Bharata’s first-ever performance of the Sanskrit theater?), we
      spectator-participants would otherwise end up having to close down this
      theater that is not just a ‘mirror of the world’ (lokânukîrtanam) of
      appearances but also of its hidden mainsprings. Some of the more significant
      and/or extended Acts indeed beautifully ‘act out’ the (all-too?) ‘human’
      etiology of very problem that the participants are ostensibly attempting to
      resolve: a newly-launched forum to break down barriers between Indologists
      and Hindus that self-destructs immediately thereafter due to squabbles over
      ‘moderation’; collective (verbal) violence against brahmins that illustrates
      the scapegoat dynamics that may help clarify the original rationale behind
      the caste-system; idiosyncratic punctuation, grammar, and style, that
      undermines the effective communication and sympathetic reception of the
      intended message; [to be completed]

      We owe a hearty thanks and deep appreciation to artist Mike Reed (we have
      his explicit blessings) for
      <http://www.politicsforum.org/images/flame_warriors/index.php> making his
      gallery of Flame-Warriors available so freely on the Internet and captioning
      each with such apt and amusing descriptions (all the images here are
      actually linked back to his original site). <http://www.flamewarriors.com/>
      Please visit his original site and get your own signed print of your
      favorite Flame-Warrior, so as to ensure that he does not fall into the hand
      of Communists. I do sincerely hope that this illustrated “Politics of
      Acculturation” digest will bring his work the wide global and serious
      attention it richly deserves.


      Friends,

      I thought we might still celebrate this New Year's day (at least us folks in
      the 'New' World!) with some collective and mutual entertainment (at our own
      expense?) by laughing at these (over-?) serious 'antics' (hâsyâbhâsa?) of
      fellow 'flame-warriors' on this world-wide cyber-stage...

      Thanks again to Arun for sharing Mike Reed's URL with the rest of us!

      Enjoy!

      Sunthar

      PS: This svAbhinava digest is still 'under construction' (hence the missing
      articulations...bandhu?)

      PPS: Discussion on the Abhinava list remains suspended till further notice.

      -----Original Message-----
      From: [Arun Gupta]
      Sent: Sunday, June 06, 2004 2:42 PM
      To: openrisa@yahoogroups.com
      Subject: [openrisa] Types of posters

      This has nothing to do with Religion in South Asia, and very much to do with
      the types of forum denizens that we are.

      Go to

      <http://www.politicsforum.org/images/flame_warriors/index.php>
      http://www.politicsforum.org/images/flame_warriors/index.php

      and see how many types you can recognize.

      Enjoy!





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    • Sunthar Visuvalingam
      I forgot to include the URL to the digest; here it is: http://www.svabhinava.org/Dia-Gnosis/DialoguesDiagnosis/FlameWarriors-frame. htm Sunthar [Non-text
      Message 2 of 2 , Jan 1, 2006
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        I forgot to include the URL to the digest; here it is:

        http://www.svabhinava.org/Dia-Gnosis/DialoguesDiagnosis/FlameWarriors-frame.
        htm



        Sunthar





        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
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