Ian Bicking: the old part of his blog

Respecting the whole person comment 000

"Lastly, people complained about things like people having provocative backgrounds on their laptops. And maybe they were right. But are they saying that those people shouldn't be allowed to have such backgrounds on their laptops at all? If they are allowed to have such backgrounds, one can only expect that some people won't think to change them before attaching their laptop to the projector."

Since I made that comment, I'll elucidate: when conducting public business you have to behave in an appropriate fashion. No-one is saying that people shouldn't enjoy their favourite erotic desktop backgrounds: I'm just saying that people should consider that their own attitudes may differ from others and that others may be uncomfortable when they show such material in public. People do make mistakes, but if someone made mistakes similar to those originally being discussed in other kinds of conferences, they'd be in trouble; if they made them in a business context, they'd risk being disciplined or fired.

It's quite possible that ignoring differences in attitudes promotes a culture where people believe that everyone else has the same view as they do. This is where a community risks becoming some kind of clique, and with that the danger that people's behaviour becomes exclusionary. This isn't about whether people should or should not feel entitled to be offended according to what you, I or a number of other commentators believe to be offensive or inoffensive - it's about whether people actually were offended (reportedly the case), whether the presenter anticipated it, and whether the presenter was acting according to the norms of the community.

If normal (or perceived to be normal) community behaviour involves offending people, then examining the effects on the community is an obvious line of further inquiry. It may be an oversimplification to say that community behaviour is the only reason for the absence or underrepresentation of a particular group, but that's no reason to disregard it as a source of legitimate concern.

Comment on Re: Respecting the whole person
by Paul Boddie