This is long. And possibly an Fi dummy spit. And possibly a source of great regret. But also a useful way to procrastinate from writing my thesis: at least I'm writing.
ON THE DOMINANT DISCOURSE OF SOCIONICS
Or: Why I Find Forum Typing Abhorrent
Socionics, like most things, has its own discourse. More importantly, the Socionics discussions on this forum follow a particular discourse. I’m not going to attempt to locate or identify the precise terms of this discourse, but I think it’s pretty clear that Ne-Ti, and particularly Ti in the argumentation of types and the determining of the logic of Socionics as a system, is the dominant discourse. Any dominant discourse operates by essentially determining the rules of the game. Here the rules of the game seem primarily to be Ti. People who offer suggestions of types are asked to explicate their reasoning with reference to the internal and established logic of the Socionics system, as opposed to any externally derived indices of social interaction. If they do the latter, they are shut down for insufficient understanding or ‘study’ of Socionics. I will deal with the privileging of internal logical consistency of a system in a later section.
The problem (or at least, source) of any dominant discourse is an authoritative body or text. In this case, the authoritative text is located in the writings of the Russian socionists. Why do I point this out? I do so because the Socionics system and its beautiful and interconnecting nodes of knowledge which form coherent loops of logic does not exist ‘out there’ to be discovered and found, perfect as it is. It instead exists ‘in here’, in the minds of everyone who attempts to conceptualise it, grapple with it and apply it to their daily interactions with other people. Every time you rely on the definition of a function or a relation, you are not falling back upon a priori principles, but in fact artifices constructed by human understanding: imagined and invented concepts. That these concepts bear some resemblance (although not perfect, and this is the problem for Socionics) to reality as we perceive it does not mean that it is any less imagined or invented, simply that the imagining was well thought-out. The ‘fixing’ of a concept or idea is not natural, but comes about through mutual consent and agreement: that is, a social act fixes knowledge in place. Since Socionics is about social behaviour, I think it helps to be attuned to the social dynamics at work amongst people talking about Socionics as well.
What does this have to do with the abhorrence of forum typing? My observations of forum typing indicate that, although some forum users attempt to actually help the person being typed, the majority of users simply post to reinforce the existing dominant discourse. They shut down alternative nodes of understanding or interpretation of the basics of Socionics, sometimes politely, but often rudely and belligerently. I refer specifically to the recent thread on Sean McCosker’s type as an example of this. When this happens, a specific interpretation becomes privileged above any other interpretation. This is particularly unhelpful when the shut down comes in the form of ‘No, you’re an idiot’ (refer to section below on argumentum ad hominem). When one considers what the system of Socionics is, such absolutist certainty is puzzling and bizarre. You are essentially saying: ‘According to this system, you have to be what you DO NOT identify with (what is unsaid is: ‘because I say so’). There are only two plausible explanations for this, frankly. Either you are an adherent to Gramsci's theory of ‘False Consciousness’ (say aye if you're a Marxist...) or you are elevating the internal logic of the system over its applicability in describing social behaviour, interaction and yes, people.
On another point, and here I borrow from Bourdieu’s concept of habitus, the way people present themselves on a forum requires them to adopt certain means of communication that are valued (or accepted by the dominant discourse) and dispose of means of communication that have less effect, because of the presiding discourse. What I mean to say is that when typing someone on a forum, you’re typing them according to means of communication, whether word, picture or video. There is no direct access (it may be argued that there never is direct access). Socionics is all about modes of communication and trying to slot them into set categories, but when typing we need to take into account that people change the way they present themselves according to the circumstances they find themselves in. Socionically, that means when something in our ego-block is being attacked or unvalued, we resort to using weaker or unvalued functions in order to communicate with our surroundings. If this happens continuously over time, then we may exhibit strength in functions that should, according to our type, be weak. [I am not saying: this is my theory of Socionics. I’m saying that I have observed people who are strong in functions that are clearly not their ego-functions. I’m open to the possibility of the effects of learning. You may or may not be and that takes me to my next point.]
ON THE UTILITY AND VALIDITY OF SOCIONICS
Or: All This Talk and No Communication
It seems to me that, somewhat brutishly, approaches to Socionics maybe divided into two: the first privileges the internal logic of Socionics (does it fit together as a coherent system?) and the second privileges the external world Socionics supposedly purports to explain or describe. Yes, we should study the system, but we should also be open to the possibility that the system is imperfect or incomplete and requires further consideration or elaboration or even alteration. Slavish devotion to the established canon of thought on Socionics is often self-defeating (to me), especially because a lot of people are attracted to the way in which Socionics can help them explain and better understand how they interact in their interpersonal relationships. It is a difference in emphasis and it alters entirely the way you use the system. Maybe on some level, this could be considered to be Te valuing over Ti valuing, though that may be a reductive description.
The best of both worlds is a system that is adaptable and valid according to external indicators but also internally consistent, but to achieve this, we need a system that values input from all functions. What stuns me is the unproductive way in which people interact here with other people (is this Fi moralising? If so, I apologise for the hypocrisy that’s going to flow from the next few sentences). You cannot control the way other people act, but you can control how you act and communicate. And since Socionics gives us a roadmap to how different types might respond to us, surely at least in responding to individual people, you can avoid pissing them off. What is the point of knowing someone is Ti-PoLR if you’re just going to PoLR slap them anyway? It makes them slam down their defences and reduces productive engagement in the exercise at hand. Surely Socionics can’t be a guide to: ‘How To Use Your Ego Functions More Overtly and Piss People Off’ but a guide to help us understand where we’re going wrong in our interactions and accommodating other people’s functional preferences so that we can communicate more effectively. Or maybe I’m living in Utopia over here.