Out Or Just Not Interested In Getting In?

Seth Godin made a short post last week about the difference between Jargon vs. Lingo. Its brevity seems to make a clear case, but it leaves a ton of important considerations unsaid.

Jargon is intentionally off putting, and lingo reminds us how connected we are.

They might look similar, but the intent is what matters. Jargon is a place to hide, a chance to show off, a way to disconnect. Lingo, on the other hand, allows us to feel included.

You may see right off that even if you say it is intent that matters, whether something is alienating or inclusive is highly subjective. The line between feeling connected to a group because you have mastered the subject specific terminology and feeling like a privileged insider for having mastered that terminology can be really thin.

Likewise from the other side there is a difference between feeling excluded because you aren’t being provided the patience and access to participation by members of a group and failing to recognize that becoming fully initiated as an insider takes time and effort.

These dynamics obviously exist in the world of arts and culture, but rather than drawing an example from there, let me cite online gaming culture.

As an old fart, I started online gaming with text MUDs  back before the modem screech was even a thing, much less broadband existed. It was only last Memorial Day weekend decided to make a foray into MMORPGs. And already you are seeing terms that can either come across as lingo or jargon based on your relationship with these things.

Knowing that some of the conversations on these games can get pretty heated and abusive, especially in Player vs. Player combat situation (PvP), I resolved to keep my head down, watch and listen as best I could from the fringes before getting more deeply involved.

Fortunately I picked a game and servers where the language doesn’t get that abusive despite there being a lot of competitive elements. At a certain point I realized I was far too comfortable hanging out at the fringes and needed to jump in and participate in these competitive and cooperative efforts.

Once I did, I came to realize as much as I had been lurking on the fringes keeping busy doing my own thing, it had actually been detrimental to the development of my characters and enjoyment of the game. The rewards for cooperative group play are much greater as achieved faster than solo play, including the sense of shared victory. But of course, it took and continues to take, effort to learn correct timing, techniques, and development processes to become more effective and extend my survivablity.

Online gaming is definitely a place where it is easy to find yourself intentionally excluded by insiders or excluded by your own lack of interest in working to understand the particular rules of the realm which you have chosen to enter. The dynamics of the jargon-lingo line are not very clear cut.

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker (artshacker.com) website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (http://www.creatingconnection.org/about/)

I am currently the Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


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