Several conversations yesterday—in the comments and privately—about "precriptiveness." Meaning, the effrontery of people telling you that you must do something a certain way. Because I'm about to put up a highly "prescriptive" post, I thought I should say a few words about this first.
I just can't see this as a problem here at TOP. To me, the antidote to precriptiveness is inherent in the situation. It's a blog. It's the Internet. You're here because you want to be. I have utterly no power over your life in terms of having meaningful leverage in any way, shape, or form, and you're not beholden to me in the slightest.
So how would it be objectionable for me to say "you must do this"? To me, it's deeply embedded in the very "contract" we have here that if I tell you to do something it's still up to you. I assume you're going to evaluate it and and quite possibly reject it. Or modify it to your own taste. This bothers me not at all—it's the way it should be. The fact that a few people will do exactly as I suggest in any given case doesn't mean that they weren't free to do otherwise.
Here's the funny part. If I actually had any power over you, I probably would never tell you what to do. I probably wouldn't feel like I had the right.
So the only way I'd ever get "prescriptive" in the first place is because I know it's just a suggestion and I assume everyone knows it is. I hope you'll take it that way.
If you don't, the next post could rub you the wrong way. You must not let that happen! (Little joke, that last, didja see that?)
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Featured Comments from:
Ctein: "I am pre-offended. (It's good to get a jump on these things.)"
Mike replies: My friend Dan Schley has a bumper sticker on his car that says, "I'm already against the next war."
Rob: "I think it is a real shame that you feel you have to say this."
Mike replies: I think it's important to address it. Because, really, the thing I most want to avoid is for any reader to feel uncomfortable or criticized, and "prescriptiveness" can do that. If people don't like hanging around here, then it's a loss for me no matter what the reason. It's important to me for people to know that where I'm coming from is not a stance of superiority or paternalism but of respect. Hopefully mutual respect!
Carl Weese: "For a long time I've been pointing out in workshops that a lot of people misunderstand The Zone System and turn it into some sort of holy procedure exactly because they take it to be prescriptive instead of descriptive. It doesn't say, 'you must place caucasian skin tones on Zone VI,' it says, 'caucasian skin tones will fall on Zone VI in a realistic representation.' This makes all the difference between using it as a helpful tool, or being restricted and frustrated by it."