When I was interviewing Stefan Schultz for our Journalism in the Disinformation Age discussion, he included some different strategies that each stage uses for what he calls their “conference culture”. I think we can see all of these strategies playing out in community spaces such as this, and I think it may be helpful to make some of these nested subjects into objects.
Amber stage — this is pure talking-point material, a top-down communication style. Perspectives are handed down through a perceived media or institutional “authority”, and then repeated uncritically by adherents to a particular ideology.
Early orange (expert) stage — this is “debate culture”, where the goal is always to compare the most idealized version of your own perspective (which is often established via Amber top-down communication), to the most negative straw-man depiction of the other’s perspective. Believes “critical thinking” primarily means to be critical of all perspectives that are not your own. The goal is to feel like the smartest person in the room.
Late orange (achiever) stage — this is more like “dialogue culture”, where the point is not necessarily to “win” a conversation (though that can take place as well), but rather to learn more about each other’s views and values. These dialogues can certainly take the form of debate, of course, but not the “bad faith” debate of early orange, which likes to make caricatures and straw-men out of opposing views. Instead there is more emphasis on “steel-manning” each other’s point of view, rather than straw-manning them, since “critical thinking” means we need to be even more critical of our own ideas than we are of other people’s ideas.
Green stage — this looks something like “discourse culture”, where the dialogue is opened up to far more perspectives, which can produce a far more robust conversation with a pluralism of informative perspectives across a wide spectrum of thought. At this stage, “alternative” perspectives are often actively prioritized over “mainstream” or “orthodox” or “dominant” perspectives. Often lacks a way to navigate these accumulated perspectives, or to recognize which perspectives may be more relevant/germane/legitimate (that is, a lack of a real “enfoldment mechanism”). This is the stage that many/most of our social media platforms currently run on.
Teal stage — I like to call this “enfoldment culture”, where participants have done the inner work to dislodge their identity from their political or ideological views, allowing them to have more robust conversations, to rethink or enhance their own positions, and to distinguish partial-truths from less-partial-truths, whether in themselves or from others. Can still be passionately invested in a discussion or a set of ideas, but there is much less “grasping” since that passion is yet another subject to be made into object. Has much more capacity to fold together seemingly irreconcilable truths, often by using methods such as polarity management, integral truth claims, and stage-specific interpretations of truth.
To me, this can a fairly useful way to gauge at least some aspect another person’s development as you are talking to them. It’s rarely a good idea to try to make an object out of someone else’s subject, unless you have direct and intimate access to their interiors — not only is that assessment often incorrect, it also tends to be rude. However, these different styles of engagement described above are often products of a person’s interpersonal line — and since “interpersonal” also means “intersubjective”, and requires more than one person/subject to participate, it gives the person/subject on the other end of the interaction more access to the first subject’s interiors, inferred from their overall preferred conversation style (so long as we remember there is often a gap between one’s interpersonal growth, and one’s intrapersonal growth, especially when emotions begin to flare up). Those at higher stages are capable of inhabiting the lower stages if/when needed or appropriate, but those at lower stages are incapable of inhabiting the higher.
Hopefully another useful heuristic to help us navigate discussions in this space, and to engage with each other with as much good-faith authenticity as possible!