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About 40oz

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  1. Negative Space

    I've been kinda pondering about this thought for a while, and I kind of touched on it on some previous posts, so I apologize if I'm repeating things you may have already read. I'm sure if I did the research, there's probably an analytical research paper that explains things a little better than I do, but it's something that bothers me about the english language that makes communicating pretty innefficient.

    In art, the concept of negative space is that the abscence of something makes the subject of the art more apparent. For example, if you were looking at a painting of an empty throne, you can elicit from the painting that in this setting, there is a king or a queen, even though those people are not depicted on the canvass. There may be something concerning the fact that the throne doesn't have anyone sitting in it. Perhaps there was an emergency, or perhaps the person in the thone has been killed? These kinds of assumptions are plausible even without actually seeing them there.

    Having conversations with friends and family kinda helped solidify my thoughts on this. My wife for example, can talk for hours and hours and hours -- I don't know how she does it. But recently, I think I may understand how and why she can talk for extended lengths of time instead of in a few short sentences.

    Generally when someone has something to say that is more geared towards a feeling, especially if it's a feeling that someone may not agree with, there's a lot of extra padding that needs to be tacked on the statement in order to get the point across without any sort of questioning or contentious response.

    If you say "I don't like thing" you also have to say "Well not all things, but there are times where a thing happened to me and I didn't like it, but I understand that some people have had good experiences with thing, I'm just speaking specifically about things that happened in my personal experience, and I just think it was worth mentioning even if your experience with thing may be different, and I want to be clear that not all things are the same and I'm open to the idea of some things being better than others etc. etc." in order to yield a positive or affirmative response from the greatest volume of people. It's near impossible to talk about anything without tiptoeing on thin ice, because with all the exposure your words get on the internet, you can be a target for huge, winded, and potentially friendship destroying debates, just because you emphasized a slight bias towards something that is not agreed upon by the majority of people.

    Any time you reveal an interest or disinterest about something where it can be absorbed by anyone who may not consider you a friend, this is often a misnomer that people associate with the word "offense" -- you're saying something that can and usually does "offend" people, and then the offended people go great lengths to inform you about your ignorance and lack of perspective. Even if you're fully aware of all the angles of looking at it, the only way to avoid is to take the time to confirm that you are aware of these things by making them apparent. The "negative space" in your message is manifested to the offended in a way that puts the speaker in a position where they are the source of enormous controversy. At which point the argument is spawned directly from all the shit that wasn't said and calls for clarification lest your reap the title of being an asshole.

    It's just a weird thing with talk. I can't just say something harmless and positive leaning like "I like black people" without everyone having a reflexive "WELL WHAT THE FUCK ABOUT WHITE OR HISPANIC OR ASIAN PEOPLE BLAH BLAH FUCK YOU YOU BIGOTED IGNORANT FUCK" reaction. Even when people do respond this way, I'm almost entirely positive that nobody is really feelinghurt by these statements until people respond with violent/angry/negative rhetoric due to the lack of information there is to elicit from the message.

    I've heard speculation from some sources that suggest that one of the major reasons Donald Trump got votes from more moderate voters is that they are sick and tired of "SJWs" telling them what they can and can't say, so they projected their beliefs on someone like Trump, who is a role model for anyone who feels it's best to "say it like it is." I feel like that makes sense, but I am a little nervous about the kind of danger the United States and the rest of the world is putting themselves in by electing probably one of the least qualified political figures as president based primarily on those principles alone. Perhaps the concept of "negative space" in conversations being projected as a language problem and not a social problem isn't as clear as it ought to be?

    I mean, just look at how fucking long this blog got already... It would have been way more direct to just say "People just wanna say what they wanna say." but there's a much more profound level of introspection that needs to be surfaced in order for people to consider the message I'm trying to deliver, and that simple sentence would have been a huge risk or ridiculously loud and obnoxious misinterpretation. This makes sense doesn't it?

    1. Benjogami


      Interesting thoughts. I agree that it's a language and a social problem, as the two are inseparable. As someone of few words (and people in social situations regularly point this out to me), it probably affects me more than I know. I imagine that I'm mostly a blank slate, colored by the few details that I let slip, and then whatever assumptions the people around me are predisposed to making.

      I have strong feelings about some things, and harsh criticisms of other things, and at times I have love and empathy for all people and all of their human experiences, and other times hatred, disgust, resentment, sadness. Language is inefficient at expressing some of these things accurately, even if the speaker tries very hard and says a lot. I think this is the case for all human languages. Art can fill some gaps, but art is difficult to make and feels differently for different people, so it has its own failings.

      I think the biggest variable is social. If I was socialized differently, and was among others of similar values, perhaps we would be more open about our feelings, and could speak at length about how our feelings interact with our beliefs, and how our beliefs feed back into our feelings. Maybe when a cashier asks me "how's it going" I wouldn't just say "pretty good" and would take 5 minutes to give a thoughtful response, and everyone in line would patiently listen, with genuine interest. Perhaps if more value was put on reading, writing, literature, and philosophy, long-winded posts would be appreciated for the clarity and understanding that is achieved by them.

      I had to try really hard to not just reply "I like black people too" because that's really funny to me. I think responses like that are valued more by forum goers and social media consumers, in general, than the response that I gave. Do I want to be seen as funny and clever, or as a pretentious, emotional windbag? I think that's a social problem.

    2. Fonze


      I agree with both you and Benjo, 40, though I see it as more of a social/psychological/people problem than one of social and language skills, though that might just be splitting hairs unnecessarily. An interesting read and topic. My thoughts:

      Many of us will remember being young and saying, "no, but..." a lot as if our perspective was something unique and the other person missed a detail that only we could see; (many of us still catch ourselves doing it today) but the reality is that we know less than we like to pretend we do, which we prove to ourselves and others most of the times that we open our mouths as if we are right to bluntly insert our super-original world-view on things into the conversation. Perhaps, in a fitting turn of irony, like I'm doing now, though I hope not, heh. Then as we get older and have more exposure to kids as an adult, we start to see it's a fairly regular thing to believe in one's own special snowflake... -edness, especially when that's what we were told we are by adults as children: that we are special. I remember my pops used to complain about my inability to just stfu and say "okay." I also remember learning one day that stfu'ing and saying simply "okay," or "you are right," or anything in agreement tends to lead to shorter negative conversations, (or as a kid: less punishment) and longer positive conversations, like when making friends. But even as an adult, when you step in front of the judge, get pulled over, or talk to your boss after screwing something up at work, what is the best thing to say? ("Okay" and "you are right" are two great places to start, followed by the ole "it won't happen again." Apologies are nice and flowery and all, but mean far less than an apparent want to improve) Tricky question to a degree, you might not want to take the full blame by saying "okay" for something you might not even have done, but standing there saying, "no, but..." while providing excuses is only going to make things worse and drive a wedge between you and your boss/whoever because let's face it, nobody wants to talk to a know-it-all narcissist who's full of excuses, even if you are right. Even when it comes to making friends, standing there, laughing along, and agreeing is one of the fastest, most sure-fire ways to make a new friend. Couple jokes here and there of course, but even without jokes, it leads to people saying, "you're one of the most chill people I know." I've been invited to more than a few parties from people I had never talked to before, though I'm not necessarily a man of few words. Putting yourself in another's shoes; much like we were taught as young kids, are still the word(s) of the day; what do we look like when we constantly tell somebody, "I know, but..." What does that ellipsis say to another? What would it say to us if it came from another about something other than the thought we are thinking right now?

      And that applies very much to the concept of negative space as well; when you put something out there it is next to impossible to define everything and leave no negative space behind. When somebody misinterprets that negative space as something that it is not, a "no, but..." is extremely likely and always leads to an argument, much as it does irl, but exacerbated as internet, or especially forum, arguments tend to be. Text also has the disadvantage of lacking tone to the same degree as speech, so there is a language problem as well, but text does have a tone nonetheless. Feelings are especially vulnerable to interpretation as people feel that they feel differently, or that others feel differently than they do. Our own assumptions and first impressions go a long way to establish a profile on the person we talk to, which tends to unhinge some folk as they picture their perceived-counterpart as similar to somebody they know personally that they do not like.

      Idk where I'm going with this, but it's back to work. Interesting topic :)

    3. 40oz


      Well said Benjogami and Fonze.

      I have a brother in law who speaks many different languages and I've been wanting to ask him next time I see him if he feels this is a problem limited to the evolution of culture or if perhaps the way language is formatted. Ive heard that learning a new language changes the way you think about things because grammatical structure of sentences contributes to the way sentences are interpreted, not just the words themselves. I just wonder if its the English language, and how that has evolved over many centuries allowed for misinterpretation and miscommunication to run rampant and generally makes getting thoughts and feelings and ideas across much more frustrating and direct as people would want them to be without having to write a fucking novel all the time.