Learning from conflict and incivility/Cormaggio

This is my (initial) "narrative" for the purposes of the Learning from conflict and incivility project. Cormaggio talk 19:21, 11 September 2008 (UTC)

I became aware of the "ethics" project in a thread on foundation-l, which was followed up a month later by another. I didn't get involved for quite a while - SB_Johnny was doing a fine job of keeping track of it all - though I did look in on occasion to see how it was progressing. My general feeling was a mixture of curiosity, nervousness, and hope - I have always thought it would be a great opportunity for Wikiversity to provide a platform to learn about practices in Wikimedia projects (and others, of course), though I wasn't sure if this was the right set-up to do so. (I wasn't sure because I really didn't know - I was vaguely aware that some of the participants were banned from Wikipedia - but I just didn't have the time to dig through the mountains of text that it very quickly generated.)

I became directly involved in the project on 25th August 2008 when I noticed an edit war between Moulton and Salmon of Doubt - and I left a note on the associated talk page about "endless reverting" [1] (now archived). Some of the relevant discussions around that time took place in that talk page, and threads on Colloquium, Moulton's talk page, and the request custodian action page (following various previous threads on the same page). I was disturbed by what I observed - neither Moulton nor Salmon_of_Doubt seemed prepared to genuinely engage with each other (ie openly, honestly, self-reflectively), and each seemed intent on characterising the other as the wrong-doer in the eyes of others. Also, neither seemed prepared to acknowledge any responsibility for their role in the escalation of a conflict situation. I saw much of it as completely childish behaviour on both of their parts - and WAS_4.250 seemingly agreed [2]:

What especially bothered me was that the project that gave rise to all this "drama" was supposedly about ethics - and yet, Moulton and Salmon_of_Doubt seemed to be behaving in an entirely unethical manner towards each other (and where one of them, Moulton, was a founder of this project). Furthermore, whenever I put this to them, it was continually ignored. In one of several requests to genuinely engage with each other, Moulton indicated that he saw their engagement as "a little game of chess" [3]:

(I think this is a very revealing comment. However, I will leave analysis to another space, and continue with my narrative - which I don't want to go on forever. :-))

Since becoming involved, I have attempted to get both Moulton and Salmon_of_Doubt to engage with each other, and to use their conflicting viewpoints as an opportunity for some genuine learning (ie open, honest, self-reflective - I think the reader will be able to gauge something of my perspective on learning from this narrative!). However, I have been pushing Moulton more than Salmon_of_Doubt - partly because I believe he has a certain special responsibility as the instigator of the "ethics" project; and partly because I could see that JWSchmidt seemed to take up my corresponding role with Salmon_of_Doubt, urging him to address comments and questions, and not ignore or remove them altogether, as he has been doing frequently since he began participating in Wikiversity. However, this relationship between JWSchmidt and Salmon_of_Doubt has turned out to be less than civil - particularly the Trout of Doubt "learning project" (which JWSchmidt has reflected on here). It is in the wake of such events of the past few weeks, having been away on holiday for the past week, that I have felt the urge to prevent the situation from becoming any more toxic than it has got, and to initiate this learning project (via my post to the Colloquium).

I will add as a meta-commentary on this project (and this narrative), that I view conflict as a potentially powerful means of learning. (I have been writing about conflict and its role in learning since 2005, eg my Wikimania paper for that year.) However, conflict clearly does not always lead to the kind of learning that I aspire to - which is mutually reflective, and in which people are forced to confront something about themselves - whether or not they continue to disagree with the other. I am hoping that this project will go some way towards this goal, and that I might be able to facilitate this in some way. Cormaggio talk 19:21, 11 September 2008 (UTC)