What follows is a co-authored post by Brandon Polite and Matt Strohl. It is a follow-up to an earlier post about online arguments about art here.
Disagreeing about art should be a positive experience. It has the potential to expand our perspective, prompt us to articulate our views more precisely, enrich friendships, and broadly enhance our engagement with works of art. The internet has massively expanded opportunities to engage in disagreement, but has done so in a way that often appears to work against these aims. Characteristically, disagreement about art on the internet is shallow and hostile.
In our previous post, we considered why disagreement about art on the internet is so horrible and unproductive. We argued that the root of the problem is that we are often personally invested in our views about art and that we therefore tend to take certain opposing views as personal attacks. If Jimmy is a passionate Taylor Swift fan and Cynthia tweets that Taylor Swift is a sham artist, Jimmy feels like Cynthia is insulting him. If he posts an angry response to her tweet, it’s not primarily because he believes so strongly that she’s wrong; it’s because he’s defending himself as a Swiftie and lashing out at a Swift Hater. The internet massively expands the scale of opportunities for this sort of interaction and puts us in touch with a huge number of people who we ordinarily wouldn’t discuss art with across a wide range of taste communities. Throw in the disinhibiting effects of online interaction, and it’s a powder keg ready to blow the instant someone posts something testy about The Mandalorian.
In this follow-up post, we suggest a range of strategies for better aesthetic disagreement—ways of avoiding hostile confrontations and instead promoting engaging, illuminating, mutually respectful discourse.Continue reading