Thursday, June 30, 2016

What even is remain?

Recently, I did some very late editing to an earlier post, that on modern ruins. Like all of my translations, it suffers from the fact that it is a rework of a piece I wrote when I was less language. Revisiting them means noticing that they do other things in text than in retrospect. The temptation is always there to edit them so that grammar and sentiment align.

I keep them around for the sake of archaeological preservation. No sense pretending the past isn't affected by learning and personal growth. Old writing always happened before the learning that came afterwards.

Thing is. It is possible to look upon contemporary architecture as modern ruins, and read it as such. Certain time periods had certain architectural norms and standards, and built accordingly. These norms and standards have mostly faded away, but the buildings remain, and with an astute enough eye it's possible to read past sentiments off the walls. Sometimes literally - either by design or later additions, such as graffiti - but mostly in implicit terms. Either the writing is on the wall, or the wall is the writing.

It always amazes me how much can be conveyed through architecture. It's never just about keeping the roofs supported and the walls upright. A whole aesthetic is conveyed by just standing around. This is the way things are, the walls say. Because they are.

There is a literacy to these things. Knowing the mindset and zeitgeist of the times that built the buildings around you lets you decode them more skillfully. You can see the optimistic bureaucratic 70s peering at you from the brick boxes, and the 00s from the confused rectangles that looked worn the day after the construction crews left. The past is on display. It remains.

These buildings weren't meant to be ruins. They were meant to perform functions in the present. To house, to store, to home. To present, as it were.

Nowhere is this as apparent as in abandoned buildings. Every part has a specific function, a designated task to be performed within. The fact that it hasn't, and hasn't for a long time, only underscores this intentionality. Dusty conveyor belts convey more than dust. Past design insists itself. It remains.

The question does insist itself. How far-fetched would it be to propose that not all ruins are physical, and that some are ideological, political, social?

It is a question to live by.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Some inspiring words about brexit

Before the brexit election happened, I wrote a blog post about post-electoral practices. About the inherent absurdity of showing up the day after an election, dressed in electoral garments and keeping on the electoral shenanigans as if nothing had happened. The point was, as you might imagine, to point out the seemingly inherent ridiculousness of such a course of action.

And then to turn it on its head and suggest that a more long-term virtuous approach to electoral campaigning, where you can actually just keep going after the election day without changing too much. The main point being that if your company is both pleasant and convincing, there'd be no need for electoral excesses. You could just comfortably speak your convictions and have listeners accept them by sheer force of personality. Quintilian style.

But then the election happened, and about five minutes after it became clear that leave won, its chief campaigners instareversed and declared everything one big lie. They never meant it, they only suggested possibilities, the impression that they actually wanted to leave is mistaken.

As electoral excesses go, this sure takes the cake. All the cakes. Especially those cakes that are lies.

Let the liars get the just deserts they deserve.

This whole ordeal underscores the point I was trying to make, though. There are a lot of elections going on, and you're likely to be involved in some of them. If something is to be salvaged from this epic clusterfuck of an election, let it be this: campaign in such a way that you can keep going with pride and confidence afterwards, regardless of outcome. And, more importantly, that you can remain on good terms with those who happen to disagree with you in the matter of who or what to vote for.

I'm sure you can understand the rationale behind this, seeing its opposite on prominent display.

The post I originally wrote turned out to be in exceptionally bad taste, given that it assumed a remain victory. But but. There are still things to be learnt and salvaged from this mess. -

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Some uninspiring words about brexit

Brexit happened. No one really wanted it to happen. Not those who set it in motion, not those who for months shouted about it with alacrity and, least of all, those who voted for it on a lark. But despite everyone, here it is, and it opens up a vast range of possible futures that are slightly less optimal than remaining.

One possible future is that some arcane part of the British body politics mobilizes and declares the whole thing null and void. It's unlikely, but it could happen.

Another possible future is that things tumble around for a bit, and then settles into a situation akin to that of Switzerland or Norway. While not formally part of the EU, they're not not parts of it either, and for most intents and purposes the difference is metaphysical.

A third possible future is that things break down completely, and the EU starts to treat the UK much like it treats Syria. No one is allowed to enter, and those who try are discouraged in the most direct of ways. Economic cooperation is severed completely, and the Brits are left to fend for themselves on their imperial isle. No matter how miserable they become.

The future that will actually take place is likely to fall somewhere in between. But it is worth noting that the EU contains the possibility of both possibilities, as it were. And any analysis of the EU as it actually exists - with and without the UK - needs to take both possibilities into account. The EU is both, in potentiality and actuality.

As it stands, brutal negotiation await those unfortunate government officials who have to hammer out the details. The EU has the capacity and incentive to not give two flying figs about the plight of the British people, in an effort to discourage further withdrawals from the union. As such, they will play the hardest balls right in the faces of the UK officials, who neither wanted nor prepared for the task foisted upon them by their supposed leaders.

It is not a pretty sight, and I do not envy those involved.

Especially not the Syrians.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

When rhetoricians and pedagogues clash

I operate by the rule of three. If I see something referenced three times, I look it up. If three persons, independently of each other, ask me to do something, I give this something serious consideration. It's a simple rule that leads to interesting new avenues, and if you ever find yourself bored, try it out.

The reason you're reading this is that three persons, independently of each other, asked about the BA thesis in education (Swedish: pedagogik) I outlined in passing the other day. So here goes. The most technical document you're likely to encounter on this here blog. If you're not an educator or a rhetorician, you might find this somewhat orthogonal to your interests. It would be quite alright to skim this one.

(If you're entering from Twitter and lived through the Thesis Livetweetage, be aware that this is not the memetic fanfic online literacy MA thesis of awesome you've heard so much about. That one is still under evaluation, and will hopefully pass soon.)

My writing partner (bless 'em) and I wanted to analyze an ancient series of rhetorical exercises, the progymnasmata, and how these relate to modern educational practices. Our reasoning was that there seemed to be some very tangible skillsets taught by this series, and that it would be enlightening to see if and where these same skillsets were taught today. And, subsequently, if any insights could be brought to bear from knowing these ifs and wheres.

Which, as you might imagine, is a very broad question, in need of being brought down to earth in terms of scope and analytic feasibility. Specifically, two things needed to be operationalized: the skillsets taught by the progymnasmata, and those skillsets taught in schools today. Only by breaking these skillsets down to their basic elements (the skills that make up the set, as it were) could we compare and contrast them with sufficient detail to say anything interesting about them.

At first, we thought that simply looking at the various exercises outlined in the progymnasmata would be sufficient to get a handle on what they're supposed to teach. However, we soon found that while they certainly built up to something, this something was underarticulated. After being frustrated by lack of context, we realized we'd better get some context. This we found in the form of Quintilian, the famous Roman rhetorician and educator, who both used the progymnasmata and had a whole philosophy regarding what they're supposed to teach.

(A technical rhetorical note: it is both possible and common to apply the progymnasmata [or variants thereof] as a kind of vocational training, where those who undergo the exercises emerge afterwards with newfound abilities to give presentations and suchlike. If all you want to do is to make sure your employees/students are able to give interesting talks, then it works well towards that end. However, this is somewhat barren in terms of comparative educational insights. Thus, we brought in bad boy Quintilian.)

I'm going to skip the tedious details about how we settled upon the five key skills taught by Quintilian's version of these exercises, and get straight to them. These are as follows: critical thinking, the ability to actualize oneself as a social subject, the fast organization of information, to have a good orientation in literature, and to establish good and enduring habits early on. The first three follow from the exercises, and the last two are emphasized by Quintilian. They all point towards the same goal: to become a good orator. Or, to quote: "we are to form, then, the perfect orator, who cannot exist unless he is above all a good man".

Being able to think critically means to not take things at face value, and to see things from multiple points of view. The ability to actualize oneself as a social subject is a complex matter, but it can be summarized as knowing what to say to whom in order to get results (especially in matters of state and law, the traditional arenas of rhetoric). The fast organization of information relates to being creative in finding things to say (topoi). Having a good orientation in literature means both to have read the classics, and to constantly be on the lookout for new nuggets of insight (or turns of phrases) to use when the rhetorical need arise. The good habits - the virtues, if you will - are rather straightforward.

Together, these five skills form what Quintilian named a hexis. This is more than just the ability to do something - it's more akin to having your whole way of thinking based on or shaped by an ability to do something. Learning something - in this case rhetoric and speaking in public - is not just a "learn and forget" kind of thing. You emerge a different person from the experience of learning, and by virtue of this you apply your new insights automatically to all aspects of your life. The knowledge is integrated into your character, and thus you know it intimately.

When Quintilian says that a good rhetor must also be a good person, this is part of what he means. Simply learning some detail or aspect is not sufficient. The art of rhetoric has to become an integrated, instinctive response to new situations - only then has the educational process been effective. You are not just someone who knows rhetoric - you are a rhetor. Your whole being as a person is involved.

(Another technical rhetorical note: the other part of this - the good part - has to do with the conditions of persuasion. If you are not a good person, and use your rhetorical powers to evil ends, those you try to convince will remember this in the future, and so become less inclined to listen to you. Conversely, if you at every point try to do what's good, this too will be remembered. Being a good person means you're in good standing with your peers, and your words thus carry more weight. The counterexample, of course, being Donald Trump.)

If you've followed so far, you have probably gathered why we sought to find if anything of this remained in contemporary educational practices. Both in terms of the explicit aim of educating good/virtuous persons, and in terms of the deep kind of knowing emphasized throughout. Regardless of the subject to be taught, there might be potential advantages to this line of thinking when applied to contemporary educational institutions.

Fortunately for my writing partner and me, we didn't have to ponder the morass of actually implementing or changing anything (at least not within the context of the thesis). Instead, we moved on to the second part of our analysis: the state of our current educational institutions.

Of course, this could stand with some narrowing and specification. Examining the entirety of a school system isn't very expedient, so we had to settle for some part of some aspect of it. We chose the time honored strategy of reading the manual, so to speak: curriculum analysis. Specifically, we read those parts that relate to the subject of Swedish. (The subject is very similar to English in English-speaking contexts. However, since English is also a subject in Swedish schools, calling it "English" would confuse things.)

Since the Swedish school system recently got a brand new curriculum, we decided to compare the old version with the new version, using the framework built from reading Quintilian. I'll spare you the tedious details of how we went about this, and get right to the interesting parts.

The curriculum of '94 (aka the old version) focused on the acquisition of "skills" or "abilities" [the term "förmågor"can go either way]. The curriculum of '11 (aka the new version) focused on the successful internalization and application of strategies. This might seem a subtle difference, but it has dramatic effects when applied in educational practice. For example, the ability to utilize a library and its resources is different from applying a strategy of utilizing the library. The former implies some sort of familiarity and affinity with the library as an institution; the latter implies that libraries are one strategically viable option among many equally viable options.

Now, this is not to say that abilities are better than strategies, educationally speaking. But depending on which framework you use, you end up emphasizing different aspects of the problem at hand, and different solutions to solving it. Being aware of the strengths and weaknesses of your framework gives you the option to compensate for the weaknesses and play into the strengths.

One of the strengths of Quintilian's hexis approach is that it's comprehensive. It teaches, and it teaches well, and brings with it the potential of further deep learning based on the learner's own interests. It has a corresponding drawback of being time-intensive, and requiring a not insignificant amount of dedication from both teacher and learner. You end up immersed in the subject matter, but it takes a while to get there; being oriented in literature only happens one book at a time. (This approach also brings with it the risk of alienating you from your peers, but that's another thesis.)

The abilities approach gives you the understanding you need to act in certain situations, such as in the library example above. It gives you what you need to move along, should interest motivate you. However, if such interest doesn't motivate, you end up with a partial understanding of a particular situation, without the appropriate context to act on this understanding. Such as, say, having a library card and a mechanical understanding of how to use it, but not really knowing or caring as to why you'd want to use it. Or, indeed, why libraries exist.

The strategies approach has the advantage of being fast and efficient. It identifies the desired outcome and the way(s) to get there, and it's easy to control if the educational goal has been achieved. Particularly when the situation only requires that you teach one particular thing. It does, however, run the risk of becoming fragmentary. Clever learners can game the system by quickly identifying the desired strategies, perform them sufficiently enough to pass muster, and then forget all about it. (Interestingly, both studying AND teaching for the test follows this pattern. But, again, another thesis.)

Rhetorically speaking, this would be the place to write that we ended up advocating a particular approach over all others. But, being an exploratory thesis, we didn't arrive at fire and brimstone clear-cut solutions or conclusions. The point was to be able to think about these things in clearer and more nuanced terms. There are advantages and disadvantages to each approach, and each are used in different settings depending on which learning outcome is sought. Some of them within traditional educational institutions, some without.

By sharing these findings with you (all three of you who asked), I hope you'll be able to ask better questions about education in the future. More so, I hope that it has become clearer that education isn't just one standardized thing that can be performed better or worse, and that the goal of educational policy isn't to choose the option that performs better (by any arbitrary definition of better) than the others. There are nuances to these things, and perhaps - just perhaps - bad boy Quintilian still has a thing or two to teach us.

Thank you for reading.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Don't say that all lives matter

At times like these, a temptation grips those who want to comment on recent events. A sentiment. An urge to proclaim, in solidarity will all of humanity, that all lives matter.

If you feel this, in any way, shape or form: don't. Resist. Abstain.

It's not a wrong sentiment to have, but it's a wrong sentiment to express. It does not help. At best, it adds nothing to the discussion, and only wastes the time it takes to express it. At worst, it causes all kinds of additional harm and strife, which is the opposite of what you wanted to achieve by expressing it. Expressing it will not improve the situation.

The reason for this comes down to one word: bandwidth.

Social situations have a very limited amount of bandwidth. Only a few things can be socially processed at once. In the cool, calm and collected moments between situations, things can be compared and contrasted and analyzed though larger perspectives. But when the situation unfolds, only a few key items that can be processed at a time. The fewer, the faster and better.

Saying "all lives matters" in a situation where some lives clearly matter less than others introduces a whole range of issues that cannot be processed there and then. There simply isn't enough bandwidth. Insisting that some of this limited resource is diverged is both counterproductive and - dare I say it - rude.

There is a time and a place for all things. Sometimes, tact and discretion are in order.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Ordinary people Twitter is not a slur

Recently, I've begun to think more and more about this phrase. Ordinary people twitter is not a slur. As a slogan, it lacks the necessary brutal directness of impact. As a subtle statement, it creeps up on you and surprises you when you least expect it.

In order to understand this phrase, it is necessary to understand what this mythical "ordinary people twitter" is. Who are these people, and what do they want?

Thing is. It is more of a negative identity than anything else. That is to say, it's easier to say what it is not in order to gradually approach an understanding of it, than to approach it head on with a declarative statement such as "ordinary people twitter is".

Ordinary people twitter does not have an emergency strategy for when hundreds of angry young men emerge in your mentions and threaten to spill over to your friends and family. It does not have such strategies for the very good reason that it does not need them. The thought of needing these strategies is absurd on the face of it - yet there it is.

But what do you do when your notifications are all about how much people hate you? What do you do when your family texts you to say that strange people are calling them? What do you do when they are outside your home, after learning the address from a public posting?

If you scratch your head in confusion at these questions and their relevance to twitter - congratulations. You are a solid member of ordinary people twitter.

The phrase "ordinary people twitter is not a slur" is a very nostalgic statement. It reminds of a time when you could post that you were getting a sandwich and get at most one fav. Nothing much happened, and that was okay. You posted ordinary things about ordinary things, and that was that. Life moved on.

Being a member of ordinary people twitter is not a bad thing. It is a good thing.

But it suggests the extraordinary nature of the situation the rest of us find ourselves in. The extraordinary twitter. Those who keep a watchful eye open for people acting in explicit bad faith, and live with the awareness that twitter admins - working on the assumption that ordinary people twitter is the only twitter - won't do pretty much of anything to help when the raging hordes come hording.

This is not a healthy state of mind. And it is not a healthy state of things. For anyone involved.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

How to speedrun Twitter in ten easy steps

1. Don't be yourself. You're a nobody, and nobodies are not interesting.  Be someone else. Better yet: be a concept. The more immediately recognizable a concept, the better. The aim is not to be a genuine expression of anything related to you; the aim is to speedrun twitter, as fast as possible.

2. Be interesting. Latch on to some existing or emerging trend, and position yourself in relation to it. Become a source of information, amusement or familiarity. Enthuse your followers. Whatever you do, don't be boring.

3. Be about something. A thing. One singular, well defined, utterly overanalyzed thing. Stick to this thing religiously. Think the thing. Be the thing. Tweet the thing.

4. Be relevant. Stay on top of things. Help your followers stay on top of things. Generate a feedback loop that makes your followers help you stay on top of things. Become an up to date resource. Be a goto source.

5. Be useful. Provide tangible benefits to you followers. Be a voice worthy of being listened to. Post relevant links. Make your followers know more by virtue of following you. Help them along.

6. Be partisan. Being impartial and neutral takes a lot of time and effort, and has a poor return on investment. Take a stance and stick to it. Loudly and often.

7. Get into a lot of fights, but never participate. Getting into fights generates a lot of attention. Participating in fights generates a lot of badwill. Tweak this to your advantage.

8. Retweet like a mofo. Creating things on your own takes time, energy and effort, and chances are you'll only create one or two things at a time. Retweeting, however, takes less effort and even less time. Plus, there's a lot of interesting and useful things out there in need of more retweets. Make it happen.

9. Don't be afraid to meme. Memes are your friend. Everyone likes memes. Memes.

10. Be afraid to be boring, uninteresting and irrelevant. Make every effort to avoid these things. There is simply no time to waste, and being either of these things wastes more time than you or your followers have.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Identity politics for everyone

At times, I hear people decrying the horrors of identity politics. It's optional, they say. It distracts from real political issues, they say. Dividing people up is divisive, they say.

Okay then.

Let's reverse things. Let's remove all pretenses of division and focus on a unifying aspects that cuts across all intersectional barriers. Let's get back to basics.


A fundamental part of citizenship is that any given citizen has the same rights and obligations as any other citizen. It doesn't matter who you are, where you were born or what you do for a living. The laws are uniformly applied across the board, and there are no distinctions between citizen A and citizen B. Both are citizens, and both are equal before the law.

Simple, easy, undivisive. It cannot become less identitarian than that.


Complications arise when a particular group of citizens demand that they be treated like all other citizens. That their rights, beholden to them due to their status as citizens, are respected and enforced in practice, rather than just on paper. Is this an instance of identity politics, or just a simple assertion of citizenship?

The difference may appear subtle, but it has clear consequences for how such assertions are treated. If it is seen as identity politics, it is usually scoffed at and ignored, regarded as of little consequence. If it is seen as a proper assertion of citizenship, it is seen as the right thing to do and a correction of injustice.

The question is: how to tell the difference between the one and the other?

You wouldn't want to make a mistake and scoff at a group of citizens claiming their legitimate rights, now would you? That would divide the citizenry into two groups - those who have rights and those who do not - and that would be the opposite of an undivided whole. You would end up with identity politics, even as you try to keep it off the table while focusing on the real issues.

Identity politics is tricky like that.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Performing critiques of religion

The honorable Rothstein recently wrote a debate article, which was given the title "Religion does not contribute to a better society". Which to be sure is the main thesis of the article, and the main argument for this thesis is that it can be shown using statistics. The argument ends there, without going into specifics, but we have to be understanding of the limited space afforded by such articles.

The honorable Bengtson wrote a reply to this article, given the title "Religion does not exist in general!". The main thesis is that the concept of "religion" is about as wide as the Atlantic Ocean, and that it follows from this that it's hard to draw conclusions about it. That is not to say that it cannot be done, but the concept has to be used in a more specific and explicit manner before embarking on such conclusionary endeavors.

To use an analogy: both football and Starcraft are sports. There are similarities between them. There are also differences, and these differences are of a nature that those things that apply to Starcraft do not automagically also apply to football, and vice versa. It is possible to pontificate on sports in general, but it helps everyone involved to specify whether the discoursing is related to Starcraft, football or some other sport. Just to keep everyone on the same page, as it were.

Before things get heated, I want to apologize to any potential readers with strong religious feelings about sports. Just in case.

We live in a time where many are engaged in criticism of religion. Or, rather, what they think is criticism of religion. Specifically against Islam, which for reasons inexplicable is deemed more in need of criticism than other religions. "It must be allowed to criticize Islam!" they bellow repeatedly, and it's hard to deny that the feelings surrounding this issue are both strong and upset.

But. Do they understand what they mean when they use the words "criticism of religion"?

As stated above, "religion" as a concept is both unspecific and unwieldy. The same goes for the concept of "critique" - even more so since it's one of the least understood concepts of our time.

To simply bellow "ISLAM IS A SHITTY RELIGION THAT DOES NOT BELONG HERE" is not to perform critique. It's just uncouth, inarticulate and headless. Nevertheless, there is no shortage of people who refer to such bellowing when they say they have to be allowed to criticize Islam. While it would be far from me to imply that these people are uncouth, inarticulate and headless, they are indeed wrong.

Critique is something that takes time. And space. Literally. To critique something is to analyze this something (preferably in detail), to relate this something to something else (which preferably also is analyzed in detail), and to then proceed to describe the similarities, differences and points of contact between the two. All the while keeping the readers informed of the steps taken by the analysis, with the aim of having conveyed an understanding of both the analysis and the things analyzed. The purpose of critique is not to find faults and flaws, but to convey an understanding of the thing critiqued - an understanding that includes such faults and flaws.

Which, as you might imagine, requires many words to perform properly. Critiques and understandings are not done in a hurry.

Those who want to critique Islam has a formidable challenge ahead of them. First, they have to grok Islam, its contexts, its core values and its everyday practices. Then they have to build a framework to relate and compare this understanding to. Then begins the hard work of comparing, relating and contrasting, all the while presenting these efforts in such a way that one's understanding of Islam, the framework and eventual conclusions are made explicit to the reader.

It would not be unfair to propose that those who energetically claim their right to criticize Islam does not have this in mind. They do not have criticism in mind at all. They have a completely different verb in mind.

But, if you ever meet someone who energetically claims such a right, point them towards this post. To give them a sportsmanlike chance to say what they actually mean. -

Originally published March 3, 2015

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

The most useless knowledge in academia

A while ago, I completed my BA in education. It is, by far, one of the least useful degrees imaginable.

Now, don't get me wrong. It's useful in terms of marketable skills, personal growth and insights into the mysteries of being human. All the good jazz you expect from a degree. But.

There is a but.

The thing about education is that everyone has opinions about it. What it should be, how it should be conducted and what the end results of it ought to be. Everyone, from all walks of life, from all political camps, from all everything. Everyone has opinions. Everyone.

The thing about these opinions is that they very rarely are based on any particular knowledge about education. Or, rather, they are based on very particular pieces of knowledge, without much context to support them. Just to keep things in balance, this lack of context is made up for by an overflow of emotion and passion when it comes to discussing the issue.

Just the one, mind. One issue at a time.

The intuitive thing to do when these issues come up is to try to provide some context. Use that education to do some educating about education, as it were. More often than not, however, the passions are such that any attempt to educate will be met with fierce resistance and fiery disagreement. It discourages further attempts on the subject.

Which leads to interesting situations when things like trigger warning, safe spaces and campus politics come up. These things could be used as launch pads for discussions on curricula analysis, pedagogic philosophy or the role of educational institutions in contemporary society. They could be. But they aren't.

The thing is, of course, that these enthusiasts are not willing to learn. That's not the reason they engage in discussions about these issues, nor the reason they want to be seen publicly as engaged in discussions about these issues. Most discussions about education, it turns out, are not actually about education, but about broader issues that just happen to find purchase in popular perceptions about education.

Thus, knowing things about education is pretty much useless in such discussions. It's beside the point. It's like bringing a knife to a gunfight - no matter how fine the point is, it's just not relevant to the situation. And knowing a degree's worth about education is a degree of uselessness.

It does, however, save you from engaging in useless fights with posturing know-nothings. Which is a win in and of itself, no matter the subject.

And you get to brag that your BA thesis was all about how Quintilian's philosophy of education relates to modern day curricula, and the importance of remembering that the role of education is to teach the young ones to actualize themselves as social subjects. Good times all around.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

The information complexity of bee sexuality

Recently I began to see people ambiently talking about bee sexuality. Which, as you might imagine, made me go wtf, until I stumbled upon the context (apparently, worker bees are all female, and Bee Movie got it wrong). Upon finding this out, the wtf factor disappeared, and so did my interest in the matter. But it did get me thinking about information processing.

Information processing happens in iteration cycles. The information differs from case to case, but the general process is the same every time, with up to five stages if the information is complex enough.

The first stage is the wtf stage. You have encountered something, and have no reference points for what it might be. The thing just exists, an intrusion into your ordinary mode of understanding the world around you. There are things that make sense, and there are things that do not. This thing is clearly in the latter category.

The second stage is the huh stage. You've been given or acquired some context to the thing, and started to make sense of it. You still don't understand it, but whenever you encounter it again, you can confidently go "huh, I've seen this before".

The third stage is the exploratory stage. You've begun to understand the thing, and are exploring the possibilities afforded by it. Thoughts that follow the lines of "if, then" are starting to enter your head, and you try it out just to see if the thens then. Just to see if you've actually understood the thing, and to satisfy your emerging curiosity.

The fourth stage is the experimental stage. You've grasped the thing, and now try to relate it to other things previously grasped. Using your accumulated body of knowledge, you try to find where the things belong and where it does not, and where it would produce interesting results if introduced. Some of your experiments will succeed, others will fail, some will fail spectacularly.

The fifth stage is the meh stage. You've understood the thing, done the thing, done the permutations of the thing, and know where to apply it to best effect. In short, you're rather bored with it, and can do it in your sleep or mindless working hours if called upon to do so.

Of course, this is not a thing that happens once and then never again. It happens all the time, all around us. Different people are at different stages, and that which engenders a wtf reaction in one person is a meh to another person. Nothing is static - everything is constantly processed.

The things to look out for are the iteration cycles. While these stages are pretty agnostic to the online/offline divide, the online has the advantage of faster iteration cycles. Things can go from wtf to meh faster than you think, and more things can undergo this transition in parallel than you imagine. Which means that, left to its own devices, the online can produce some spectacularly fast mehs, and generate demand for very particular wtfs that seem very far from the offline experience.

So the next time you stumble upon discussions of bee sexuality, remember this post. Introducing it to the context might produce some interesting results. -