The Resource of Public Discourse.

I like to describe the resources of public discourse thusly; attention, emotion, creative chances and action. Talk shows, panel shows and general media constantly circulate information throughout the community, according to various agendas and events. The subject of the popular public platforms will receive more attention, which feeds into expressions of emotion (eg. I care about this cause, I have more time for those people now, I never really got it before), feeds into a chance of someone creating a solution (eg. reduce the gender pay gap by asking women to negotiate wages), and it can feed into signing a petition, protest / solidarity march and what-not.

The circulation of information can indeed be circular. An example begins with those indigenous peoples of the world who face cycles of suffering which are an ongoing effect of colonisation. From the (what I imagine to be) perspective of a child, it is not immediately obvious that history is to blame for some social problems, nor that social projects specifically for minorities (instead of for problems) may be validated as an effort to break a cycle of suffering. Left to explain to themself, a child might learn a skin deep explanation to both predict and explain certain social issues, and that social projects specifically for minorities are simply a different expression of favouritism. As the child grows and learns the invisible explanation, the surface explanation is overcome, righteousness kicks in and this cycle repeats itself.
To briefly go deeper, a dogma, as opposed to a talking point, brooks no argument and readily produces contradictions (race-blind hiring set against racial benefits). A talking point allows the consistent explanation to be given, tweaks to the consistent explanation and immediate developments of the state of affairs alongside just arguing or joking, and it’s those last two which circulate the issue into smoko. These two paragraphs hopefully demonstrate a resource of public discourse, development & maintenance of the public opinion.

Most resources are limited in quantity, and this is true of the resource of public discourse. Each of us has only a finite time alive, and as attention requires life then our attention is a limited resource. As the developments of emotion, creative chance and action require that attention to begin, they are also limited. Competition for the limited resource of public attention comes from media personalities seeking to maintain their position, from advertising seeking to hold and manipulate it and from more places. Limitations of attention, perhaps by a limited broadcast time, means not all questions can be asked, conversation may be cut short, fuller explanations are inexpressible and so please be mindful of the balance of public discourse. Sometimes a dogma is a better response than a talking point.

Public discourse is a society wide resource to which we should all have recourse. An ability to determine what is discussed is at least as powerful as determining how it is discussed, and so there is a never ending battle over the hot topic & public enemy number 1. I believe a good discussion should include a relative position of the subject, and a relative position of social justice campaigns could undermine their impact. Positioning an issue within a broader context could also result in better distribution of the resource of public discourse.


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