Friday, January 30, 2009

A Heated Discussion Over Children

I have commented before that I am not in-world nearly as much as others appear to be. I have also commented, at least on Miss Orr's Journal, that I have not heard a great deal of uncivil behavior on ISC chat - certainly not to the degree that Miss Orr reports. One possibility is that Miss Orr has higher standards for what ISC chat should be - entirely possible. On the other hand, I may just have been lucky. Two recent episodes have made me wonder if my luck in that department is running out.

A few days ago, during a silly discussion - I no longer recall the discussion, and it's not terribly relevant - someone, in making what he intended to be a funny remark, used a common four-letter vulgarity for sexual congress. It seemed wildly out of context and inappropriate, even given the silly bantering nature of the discussion. As I was preoccupied at the time, I was slow to respond, but Miss Levenque responded that the language seemed quite inappropriate, and asked the person to maintain a more civil tongue. (Miss Levenque was a tad more polite than that.) The episode left me a little rattled.

Fast-forward to last night. I logged into the following lines:

[15:31] Avatar 1: she IS a grown woman in RL, but we are not talking about
[15:31] Avatar 2: I think this conversation is quite inappropriate here and
would appreciate it if you would close it now Avatar 1.
[15:33] Avatar 1: ...and I'm not sure how my conversation could be
considered inappropriate Avatar 2.
[15:33] Avatar 2: However, it could be that [child avatars] shouldn't go
out of their [way] to be unchildlike and annoying.

The child avatar in question - neither of the two speakers - then insults Avatar 2 for the crime of...participating in RP in some other sim.

Of course, a number of others tried to defuse the situation. Mr. Sands employed humor, Baron Wulfenbach suggested gently that, as tempers cooled, various participants might find apologies to be in order, and so on.

Having logged on in the middle of the discussion, I didn't think it appropriate to add fuel to the fire by offering my comments. Instead, I shall offer a few now.

First, there is clearly no question that child avatars are permitted in Caledon (assuming their typists are adults and that the avatars engage in no sexual RP). Second, as everyone should expect politeness from their fellow citizens, so should we be polite to child avatars.

Third, although children are not terribly prevalent in Caledon, there are a few (and some more in New Babbage). I don't understand why someone would want to play a child, but I don't try to understand the preferences of others. Those who enjoy RP-ing children may fail to understand why anyone would want to be me. Fair enough. Most of the children I have met have been delightful, in the sense of playing the role of a child but using the wisdom of an adult to temper the worst attributes of actual children. That is to say, a teenaged young lady tends to act like a young lady (which is good), rather than a teenager (which, sad to say, is often bad) (my apologies to well-behaved teens everywhere - I hate to tar you with the same brush, but the law of averages is on my side here). Similarly, a certain talented urchin of New Babbage, who creates brief cinematic presentations of his town, may act mischievously, but never rudely.

Fourth, I can understand why people would find interacting with children to be annoying. I don't, in part because they work hard at their roles (see the point above), and perhaps in part because my typist has no urchins at home, so my time in-world is not a means of temporarily stepping out of the role of parent. As no one is obligated to interact with others, those who find children annoying can, for the most part, ignore them.

Fifth, the exception to my generally tolerant view of child avatars is the subset of children who act very young. Well, I suppose if they played the role of pre-verbal infants, that would not be annoying in the least, but, by definition, we would not be hearing from those children in ISC chat, unless out of character. But the baby talk that some affect is quite annoying, as well as hard to understand. (Harder than Jaeger-speak, really.) If someone wants to play a role of a character that young, I would think that he or she would also play the rest of the role - be seen and not heard. One can then ignore social interactions in which it would be appropriate for such a youngster to speak to an adult stranger.

Fine and dandy, Rhianon, I can hear you say, but there is a problem: the youngster has just as much right to participate in ISC chat as the adults. True, and therein lies the last point. Sixth, people vary in their adherence to remaining in character during ISC chat. Some try to remain in character - one thinks of the Baron Wulfenbach, addressing others as Frau(line) or Herr, and saying "bitte" and "danke"; or the Jaegers, even discussing vintage Renaults in Jaeger-speak. Some are in character when possible, but willing to step out of character for the duration of a discussion - Mr. Volare and Doctor Obolensky come to mind as examples. Others have no well-defined character other than Victorian lady or gentleman, and participate in ISC chat as more or less themselves - many people fall into this category, perhaps most notably the Guvnah himself. Thus, it is not essential to remain in-character in a group discussion. More to the point of this essay, to participate in an adult conversation, one should participate as an adult. Pwetty baby talk, how-wevah tweet, is swimply annoying awnd fwustwating, and not appropriate in chat because it's not in character anyway.

This is a long-winded way of saying: children, yes; annoying baby talk in ISC chat, no. Is that too much to ask? And, really, Avatar 1 and her child were trying to move the terms of the argument: starting with the reasonable proposition that child avatars were permissible, they made an incorrect leap of logic that baby talk in chat was just fine.

That gets me back to the original topic of this essay, which is impolite behavior in ISC chat. You, Dear Reader, may disagree with any number of the points I raised, and you are free to do so. There are polite ways of expressing that disagreement, and impolite ways. Similarly, there are both polite and impolite ways I could respond to this hypothetical disagreement. In person, it's all too easy to blurt out something one later regrets - I know I do it all too frequently. When forced to write out a response, one can take longer, and Revise and Reconsider. Please do so, rather than Rue and Regret.

And kids...stay off my lawn!


Edward Pearse, Duke of Argylle said...

I know of a former Caledonian, now relocated to Steelhead, who was having a good old whinge about jager speak. I don't know if it's because he has to think to translate or whether it's because it's something he doesn't participate in and therefore it can't be as important as his own RP, but it points out that even though you find Jager acceptable but pwetty baby talk not, we all have different levels of what is acceptable. Though as you say, as long as they're polite I don't see an issue.

Rhianon Jameson said...

Indeed, Your Grace. And I want to emphasize, in case I wasn't entirely clear, that my annoyance is *my* problem, not the RPer.

At the same time, I was more than a little surprised at the vehemence of the disagreement.