This site presents controversial issues in dialogue form. The dialogue below answers some basic questions about the form. The second speaker, Ryan, is the site’s author.
Are the dialogues based on things real people say?
Yes. I try to present ideas and arguments that real people endorse or would endorse. Sources are given in annotations.
So are the speakers based on real people? Maybe even named after them?
No one in particular. The speakers’ names are randomly selected, as are any colors or images that may appear to represent the speakers.
The exchanges can be pretty brusque—more like tense debates than open conversations. Is that how you think people should talk about controversial issues?
I focus on arguments and try to be concise, so conversational niceties will be lacking. Don’t take the dialogues to model how people should talk to each other, especially not if they’re trying to be genial.
But aren’t dialogues and arguments contrasting styles of communication—the first open and receptive, the second closed and combative?
That’s one way of defining them. But I mean
dialogue like a dialogue in a play. And I mean
argument like an argument in a courtroom—not a verbal fight but an attempt to persuade using reason and evidence.
Sometimes the dialogues read like verbal fights.
The speakers disagree, but I wouldn’t say they’re fighting. Each side tries to convince the other using logic, rhetoric, and evidence. There’s conflict, but it’s foremost between ideas, not people.
Do you usually favor one side over the other?
I expect to, but the dialogues are less personal punditry, more explainer journalism—in this case, the
why for the
what of opposing views on current (maybe perennial) controversies. Whatever my views, I look to challenge them as much as defend them.
Sounds frustrating and unsatisfying. Why write something like that? Why read it?
To think critically about one’s own and others’ ideas. To try to see things differently or more clearly. That’s why I write the dialogues. That’s also why I think people should read them.
This is an annotation. All annotations are listed in the Notes section after the dialogue.
I wrote some code to pick each name from a list of 520 taken from Social Security Card applications. I use the 10 most popular names for each sex (M or F), for each letter of the alphabet, for roughly the past 80 years (collectively, not year-by-year). The names change every time the page loads—except on the current page, where my name stays the same.
The silhouettes, the color of the silhouettes, and the color of the profile/initial bubbles on the dialogue
infiniscreenare all independently, randomly selected with each load of the page.
Silhouettes and names do correspond by order (1st to 1st, 2nd to 2nd, …), and a silhouette’s apparent gender (M, F, or X), as labeled by me, might match the name’s assigned sex (M or F), as recorded in social security data. Otherwise, no effort has been made to make a name
fitits corresponding visuals or vice versa.
A speaker’s name and visuals do not correspond to their opinions. If they appear to sync up to form some stereotypical character, it is entirely by chance.
See my brief intro to arguments and critical thinking.
From the NYU Journalism Institute:
Quick definition: Explainer journalism gives users the background knowledge they need to understand the stream of updates to a story. Another way to say it: explainer journalism specializes in the “why” and “how,” so that the “who, what, when, where” make more sense.Qifan Zhang. Explaining the news builds audience for it.