Friday, July 28, 2006

Dogma Geeks

This is the second part of the two part post that started with Extremist Lexiconography

The fourth Canadian edition of "Readers Choice" begins to define jargon in commonplace terms:

Jargon is the special language of a certain group or profession

The authors don't simply stop at defining the word. They move on to make this observation:

When jargon is excerpted from its proper subject area, it generally becomes confusing or meaningless, as in "I have a latency problem with my backhand" or "I hope we can interface tomorrow night after the dance."

As a technology worker, I'm immersed in specialized lingo that enables me to communicate concepts and ideas more efficiently then common English, so long as I'm speaking with someone who's conversant in the jargon of my field. I'm also regularly surrounded by people who are so intensely focused in their area of expertise that they choke the life out of the voice of their empathy, handicapping their awareness of the people around them and their own ability to connect with an audience that's at all alien. In short, computer geeks.

We geeks can often be seen holding lengthy conversations in which nouns all show up as cryptic acronyms. Those of us who fail to cultivate interests outside of the narrow realm of our technical expertise gravitate towards others who share that one interest rather then learn how and when to switch to a more general lexicon. This creates a feedback loop that encourages us to choose isolation from mainstream society and, with it, our best chances for recovering some balance.

In recent months, I've come to question how I had slipped so easily into these antisocial circles. As my relationship with myself has grown, I've learned enough to know that I treasure my connections to the people around me. How, then, wasn't the teenaged me jarred when he began to circulate amongst people who have such difficulty connecting with anyone on a purely personal level?

Now I find myself wondering if it wasn't simple familiarity.

"Well, Pop, how do you even get saved in Islam?"
~Teenaged Me, making an abortive attempt to understand my father's views

Jargon increases efficiency, but it doesn't end there. If you use it without consideration for the person listening to you, it confuses the uninitiated and garbles your intent. The miscommunications that spring from indiscriminately wielding technical dialects encourage more antisocial behaviour - both driving the geek away from alien people and encouraging her to treat them more forcefully when she must interact outside her intellectual tribe.

"Saved from what?"
~My Father, providing me my first illustration of religious language barriers

And so we lecture, instead of discussing. We seperate ourselves into sophistically armed camps, always watchful for the chance to lob a verbal volley at anyone who sounds like they might disagree with us. Amongst computer geeks, this shows up in T-shirts with slogans deriding the very people we sell our services to. Dogma geeks, on the other hand, end up trying to encode their beliefs into the fabric of their nations legal systems.

"You just need to get your heart right with Jesus"
~My Mother, signaling the beginning of a "discussion"

Please repeat after me:

"Treat people like people"
"Give people the benefit of the doubt"
I may need to add "Listen" to the official list of mantras.

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