[Article] Breeding and breaking cultures of contempt


(Sarah Hawk) #1

I’ve just finished reading this article: http://blog.aurynn.com/86/contempt-culture

I highly recommend taking 10 mins to read it if you’re interested in how cultures of contempt are bred and sustained within communities.

It’s a reflective piece that examines our self-taught narratives and what can happen if we are critical of the narratives of others – making people feel unsafe to talk about their own achievements and successes.

I think it can happen very easily within communities – on both individual and group levels – without people realising.


(Bo McGuffee) #2

Excellent article!

So when I started programming in 2001, it was du jour in the communities I participated in to be highly critical of other languages. Other languages sucked, the people using them were losers or stupid, if they would just use a real language, such as the one we used, everything would just be better.

Imo, this is exactly the problem with insider/outsider language. When we turn a group of people on the outside into an “enemy” we are are leveraging the power of dehumanization to increase a sense of identity and belonging. This is incredibly effective. It’s also incredibly dangerous. As the us-vs-them mindset continues, the community can become more toxic as those who are not interested in such dynamics leave and those who embrace it thrive. It is indeed possible for those on the inside of a community to feel special and empowered without disparaging those who don’t fit in.


(Sarah Hawk) #3

I think the scary thing is how often it happens without people even realising.

For instance, I had an email a while back from someone asking what B2B and B2C means in a community context. Those are acronyms that we throw around a lot here and it never occurred to me that they might make someone feel excluded (the person in question is intelligent, well read, and experienced in community practice and philosophy).

You have to work pretty hard on the culture if people are going to feel safe enough to ask those kinds of questions without feeling intimidated.

In UX we work really hard to design inclusively and to put aside hidden biases as much as it is possible to do so (for instance not requiring a binary gender choice to be made when signing up for a service) and the same thing probably applies here, but in the way we communicate.


(Bo McGuffee) #4

So true!

It’s interesting that you received that e-mail. Fwiw, I think that says a lot regarding how safe you personally make people feel. Kudos on the great work!

If I recall correctly, it was mentioned elsewhere (can’t remember where) that the struggle here is to get those seeking more experience to participate more. (Please correct me if I’m wrong.) Given that the e-mail had to be sent in the first place, do you think we might have a growing problem here?


(Sarah Hawk) #5

I think there are a couple of things at play. Every community needs a balance of question askers and answerers, so I think it’s fine that people have different levels of skill and experience, but I think the other thing is that someone could be an extremely skilled and experienced hobbyiest/special interest CM that has never moved in business circles and therefore hadn’t heard those specific terms.


(Bo McGuffee) #6

Excellent point!