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Wherefore art thou Orbitofrontal Cortex?

There’s a great piece in the New York Times today that’s had me thinking about the importance of ICANN meetings, face to face interaction, and civility within the ICANN mailing lists.
The basic gist of the piece is that when we are interacting in an online environment we can’t pick up on emotional signs and social cues. These emotional signs are processed by our orbitofrontal cortex, which generally tells us to chill out if we see someone getting upset by our actions.

The point is made that if we are “lacking real-time cues, we can easily misread the printed words in an e-mail message, taking them the wrong way.” We are also more likely to respond in an agitated fashion because our orbitofrontal cortex doesn’t have anything to work with.

As a solution the author mentions a US school programme based on a stoplight:

red: stop, calm down, take a second.
yellow: weigh a range of responses and their consequences.
green: try the best response.

We don’t as yet have a stoplight programme in place at ICANN. When I was more into online gaming the discussion lists had moderators and ground rules in place to help deal with the orbitofrontal challenge.

Would be great to hear your thoughts on how we might encourage a productive and fruitful online debate despite the challenge identified in this article.

cheers, Jacob.


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