15 January 2012


In previous posts I have argued that excessive communication can do more harm than good. I have even gone so far as to say that communication can be a form of aggression.

When you are sitting alone thinking about something that really matters to you and someone walks up and starts babbling about sports or politics, that other person is trying to force you to stop thinking your own thoughts and begin thinking about what he wants you to think about. It’s socially acceptable but nevertheless it is a reduction of your freedom.

This is relevant to conlanging because there exists a faction of conlangers who think langmaking is only worthwhile when done collaboratively, or at least done with the goal of providing entertainment to others. Working independently on a heartlang that is only meant to please yourself and will never be revealed to others, neither knowing nor caring what other conlangers have done, is viewed as anathema by this faction of codependents.

Granted, not knowing what any other conlangers have done seems almost impossible now due to the internet and projects like Klingon, Na'vi and Dothraki that are known in pop culture. But I cling to the hope that somewhere in this world there are remote villagers secretly brewing conlangs in their own heads without being subjected to any knowledge or influence from other langmakers.

Perhaps I exaggerate for rhetorical effect, or perhaps this is a “thought experiment.” Whatever. But I revisit this line of thinking now because I enjoyed a recent article in The New York Times Sunday Review entitled The Rise of the New Groupthink. (Oh no, my thinking was affected by somebody else… damn it.)

The article does a great job of pointing out how an emphasis on teamwork and group activities is reducing productivity and assaulting individuality in our schools and workplaces.

The author seems to make an exception for internet-based projects, writing “The protection of the screen mitigates many problems of group work. This is why the Internet has yielded such wondrous collective creations.” Apparently she is oblivious to the ways in which cabals of “regulars” dominate many online forums and bully newcomers into conforming or leaving. Perhaps she doesn’t know the degree to which the people with most severe cases of OCD tend to control what happens on the Wikipedia pages that they constantly monitor.

The comments from readers of the article also provide dazzling insights.

Think back to the recent “masterpieces” thread on Conlang-list. How many masterpieces of art have been created by focus groups, teams or committees?

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