Friday, February 6, 2009

On the virtue of facilitating self-critique

One pattern which I see as commonplace in communities (virtual and real) is that, at least in some ways, critique of the community is discouraged.

I pointed out one non-virtual example in a comment to the Introduction, about a professor who made an honest and humorous comment about the way faculty meetings are run. I've heard this sentiment from many different academic friends, and have a strong sense that it is nearly universal, but somehow it's impermissible to voice a complaint about it. Everybody hates the way those meetings are run, but nothing ever changes because effective critique of the "blowhards" is taboo.

This is a self-critical community. That is to say, critique of this nascent community (or of me) is most definitely welcome. I'd eventually like to have some others within the community who are similarly self-critical, but for the moment I will speak only for myself.

I'd like to conclude with some advice:

  1. Critique is a double-edged sword: A clumsy critique can be wind up being more embarrassing to the speaker than to the intended target.
  2. I don't think there's anything wrong per se with, e.g., flaming -- provided that flaming is the most polite way you can express yourself on the subject at hand.

1 comment:

  1. A nice article on the subject by my good friend and former boss, Scott Oddo:

    The Myth of Scientific Objectivity