• What's Your Opinion Worth?

    Yes, I’m recovering from another late night tweeting argument. It’s not easy reading like this, which reminds me of Ginger Roger’s famous line about dancing with Fred Astaire: in heals and backward. In Twitter’s case, it’s reading backward through fragments.

    When I teach a composition and rhetoric class, exploring the difference between forming an idea and having an opinion is pretty important stuff. They’re not the same; they’re not synonyms.

    An idea is a concept held in the mind as a result of mental understanding, activity, or awareness. Central to an idea is the human activity of making sense, comprehending the meaning of the idea, remaining open to the likelihood that an idea can change.

    An opinion, is a view or judgement about something based not necessarily on knowledge or experience, often subjective. Opinions are seldom, if ever, central to the purpose of finding or making meaning of something or anything. They are many and shared often, solicited and unsolicited.

    Opinions may certainly be ideas but ideas must be more than merely opinions.

    Opinions, being what they are, are highly subjective. They are efforts to be right, not correct. They assert superiority or claim self-evident truths: It is because I said it isI can’t imagine anyone liking this, since I don’t like it!  The purpose of the claim is to hold one’s position or to claim other opinions are wrong or inferior.

    An idea is product of mental activity: experience and/or knowledge. It is less subjective, seldom rooted in judgment, and open to substation and refutation. We make and share ideas when we are interested in making meaning, comprehending something. When our opinions shift or change, they do so because we’ve moved our views toward ideas or have had ideas affect our previous opinion.

    Opinions are wrapped up with emotions and habits: dig in my heals, hold  my ground, claim my rightness, claim the others’ wrongness. Mostly, what’s transpiring online are the posting of 140 character or status editorials. We collect opinions on-line.

    Global societies are transitioning to networked electronic communication, as a significant means of transmitting information. This transformation  further develops logo-centric privilege, increases the need not just to accept change but adapt to it, and shrinks diverse discourse platforms. What place  is there for ideas and their explication, refutation,or  substantiation in our new digital spaces?

    Ideas take time to unravel and examine. They take a myriad of diverse influences to grow. They need space that cultivates contemplation as much as chatter. They live in rich, complex cultural contexts–which are difficult to preserve digitally, where too often everyone’s got an opinion. Ideas are more than a single person’s possession. We’re moving a lot of images across these networks, too. In our current proliferation of image-making helped along by our ubiquitous smart phone are we making/exchanging ideas or opinions?

    Perhaps our new media cultivate new habits and the practice of meaning-making that moves much faster, less recursive, more immediate, less reflective? Maybe we’ll habitualize this collecting of editorials and opinions, in a space where everyone is always right and everyone else is always wrong. Are we suppose to get used to that? We may be changing, and the changes inevitable. We may be adapting to a new intellectual paradigm, but at what cost and to whom, for what gain or value? In the end, as they say, opinions are a dime a dozen.

    Originally Posted: May 15, 2013