Danny Yee (danny@STAFF.CS.SU.OZ.AU)
Sat, 28 Jan 1995 13:01:47 +1000

I see flame-wars as part of an ongoing struggle -- which is waged in
almost every message to some extent -- over the anthro-l community.
This "struggle" is over what consitutes acceptable behaviour from
members of the community, and is NOT separable from the community.
If what appeared on the list were defined solely by formal criteria
then the list would not *be* a community. Which is not to say that
we can't try and control flame-wars, or that they are unavoidable,
but simply that they are at one end of a spectrum of behaviour which
could only be prevented by destroying the community.

As well as influencing the community's beliefs, messages also serve
to influence the sender's "status". The reason status matters is
because "pure intellectual discussion" is a myth, and our evaluation
of anything involving emotions or non-intellectual argument is
critically dependent on what we know about the author. Maintaining
one's status can clearly become an important goal in it's own right;
much of the heat involved in flame-wars can, I think, be attributed to
people feeling that they have "lost face" and trying to reclaim it.
I don't see this as necessarily a bad thing -- in fact I think that
list members who don't care about the good opinion/evaluation of
the community as a whole (and who are presumably only using the list
instrumentally or to bolster their own self-image) are essentially
parasitic on the list.

Danny Yee.