tmatteson

Contributing writer for The Artifice.

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The Devil's Advocate in 140 Characters or Less

Is there still a role for Devil’s Advocacy in the age of social media trolls? Adopting a contrary position for the sake of debate has its origins in the Catholic Church and has become institutionalized in it’s use in refining academic writing as an "opposing view" or antithesis. But as social media trolling begins to have real-world consequences, from violence to criminal investigations, should we retire the Devil’s Advocate role once and for all? Or is there an affirmative role for a new kind of digital demon?

  • I kind of see what point you have, but I think you need to be a bit more specific. Do you have a specific instance that shows how devil's advocacy has "real-world consequences" that could support this argument well? – Suman 4 years ago
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  • I think an additional consideration for whoever writes this could also be how to handle trolls/Devil's Advocates in an academically sound and ethical matter in order to avoid whatever "real world consequences" you are referring to – Kevin 4 years ago
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  • I like the essence of this topic, but it seems too willing to dismiss the value of playing devil's advocate in an abstractly general sense simply because a very specific type of devil's advocate is exhausting its value. In other words, the topic seems too willing to dismiss the concept of contrarianism because there are people who misuse it. Suppose, hypothetically, that we got rid of all devil's advocates, what would happen then? Would people be prohibited from making opposing claims and arguments? – IsidoreIsou 4 years ago
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  • I think whoever writes this should be specific about *Where* they see these devil's advocates. As, echoing what Kevin said, the internet troll started out as a form of devil's advocacy but has since become something else. (There is a good PBS idea channel video about this topic). If we're talking about real life discussion though, there's potential for a useful form of this rousing. – Mariel 4 years ago
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Latest Comments

When I think of Zen’s relationship to writing, I think of paradoxes (like Zen koans) and unexpected connections. As a writer, I try to avoid the Western mentality of breaking things down into their constituent parts, and I try to instead think holistically, tracing all possible connections, however unlikely, absurd, or impossible. I know that I do not have total control of my thoughts, I simply follow them:

“I know noble accents
And lucid, inescapable rhythms;
But I know, too,
That the blackbird is involved
In what I know. ”
-Wallace Stevens, “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird”

Using Zen Philosophy to Improve Creativity and Overcome Writer’s Block

I teach academic writing at a public university, and I ask myself this question every day. I have to believe writing can be taught for my livelihood, but I try to teach it indirectly. Many people believe that writing is simply grammar, but that’s like saying that filmmaking is only lighting. I try to teach my student that clear writing comes from clear thinking, and clear thinking comes from active reading. Especially given today’s information-saturation, I see it as my biggest responsibility to teach students how to evaluate sources, to tune it to what’s reliable and to critique what is unreliable.

Can you Teach Someone how to Become a Writer?

I think we should see the French New Wave not as a historical phenomenon but a movement of the continuous contemporary, particularly since its greatest filmmaker, Jean-Luc Godard, is still making films. One of the things that fascinates me about the New Wave is its response to technological innovation. If you look at Godard’s films, for example, you can see the typewriter (literally in Histoires du Cinema, personified by journalists in Breathless, Tout Va Bien, Comment Ca Va, etc.) as a formative influence on Godard’s conceptual of cinematic temporarily as discontinuous. In this way, the typewriter is the father of the jump cut. A more recent example: Godard’s use of cell phone footage in Film Socialisme. Godard presciently considers the liberatory potential of cell phone video just a year or so before one such video (the Tunisian street vendor’s self-immolation) would spark the Arab Spring.

The French New Wave