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Author Topic: Does bias imply a moral statement?  (Read 4204 times)

mikey

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Does bias imply a moral statement?
« on: September 10, 2010, 09:45:53 am »
I start this topic because I got completely sidetracked by replying to anomaly in the Narcissu 2 topic :), I'm so sorry. His comment made me think about a lot of the contexts about being biased. Anyway, here it is - anomaly replied to me dismissing N2 after playing just the demo and only because the girl refers to her hands as "small hands", which I explained by saying I feel it's like breaking the 4th wall for me.

Quote from: anomaly
IMHO I think that's misjudging the work. It doesn't seem to be fair to dismiss the whole work for something like that for no good reason. That's from the demo you said? That's not even half the content. If it bothers you that much you can just skip past that line.
I strongly suggest you give it another try.

When people suggest with reasonable arguments that I'm being unfair, my first reaction is to try to apologize or find some rationalization for the bias. You're completely right in saying it's not fair to dismiss things based on a single "red flag", especially if that red flag is not a recognized moral issue (like if I had a problem with nudity or religious content). It's perhaps also like dismissing something based on poor graphics or that it's done by "this company I don't like" - it does feel shallow and very unfair, especially when something you care about is dismissed like this, without giving it a chance at all.

But even so, I have to wonder if I should really put my energy into giving these things a fair chance. I think there has to be a limit to what you can be open to - it's not possible to like all genres of film, and with time people will develop certain tastes and avoid genres that don't give them as much as other genres based on who they are and their life circumstances. And once they are stable in their preferences, they will look for typical indicators of content they will not like to spare themselves the energy or re-evaluating - those are the red flags. I have my own set of those for VNs, and though it's easy to label me as superficial because I dismiss things based on them, I'm hoping people will understand that this is more than anything a mechanism to protect me from the incredible amount of time and energy I would have to spend if I had to give a fair chance to any VN, any film or any genre of music - if my own "map of preferences" which I now use to navigate through the content and genres out there, so to speak, was to always be blank.

Of course, typically people won't have the context of my entire life, which is normal - and when someone sees my comment on Narcissu, it's easy to assume I'm not giving it a fair chance - because I'm not explaining my life situation along with it, it's not apparent how I came to dislike the genre, and whether or not I like to perhaps enjoy this kind of content in a different form (like in a film; which would most probably not have the issue of referring to oneself in diminutive, as it's low on inner monologue, typically). I do see how that comment about me dismissing N2 as a whole, and perhaps even the whole genre with it, not just seems, but I'm sure IS in your perception - unfair.

But I hope you understand that I don't want to argue with you or be insulting when I say that despite of what you pointed out, and despite the fact that I find it absolutely logical and I agree with you that it's unfair - that knowing I am unfair still won't make me give N2 another chance. At least not now, or in the near future. I know you never accused me of this - it's a general thought - but while writing this and trying to explain why I am unfair, it occurred to me that we perhaps perceive unfair people as bad people too often, or that unfairness is synonymous with something negative.

---

So to completely derail this Narcissu 2 topic (and I'll create a separate thread because of this), what is your opinion on bias or being unfair in conjunction with being a bad or immoral person? Or more specifically, does bias have to come with a moral stance to it? Do you necessarily consider someone who is being clearly unfair (like bashing some product - not as flamebait, but a genuine dislike) a bad person? Do you require him to be more empathic and look at all sides of the story all the time (not counting actual journalists, because they in fact should)? Or do you require empathy from a stranger, but accept bias if it's your friend?

Because my bias in this case has nothing to do with any moral stance - you then may think it's pure convenience (avoiding thinking about things too much by putting them into "stereotype boxes" based on experience), but I actually think it's even a necessity, because you wouldn't be able to function as a person with constant openness to everything - not to mention you would probably have no personality if you had no bias.

I don't think that being biased, having a simplified view on some things necessarily means that you don't understand their depth. I can be very dismissive of Narcissu, but still understand that under different circumstances it could give me a lot more than it can give me now. Also, when I don't like RPGs of any kind and use simplified statements like "RPGs are a time sink", it doesn't mean I don't respect their creators or that I think RPGs are morally wrong.

Anyway, just something to think about on Friday, if you'd like to.  :)

sake-bento

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Re: Does bias imply a moral statement?
« Reply #1 on: September 10, 2010, 03:37:40 pm »
I think it really depends on the nature of the bias.

Let's say I hate garlic. For me, any food that comes my way with garlic in it will get an automatic pass. I simply don't like the flavor or the smell, so I won't partake in anything with it. It's nothing more than a personal preference, and there's nothing wrong with turning down a dish because it has an ingredient I don't like.

In contrast, let's say that I really hate the guy who owns the restaurant across the street, and my reason is entirely unjustified. If I refuse to eat at his place just to snub him, then that makes me a jerk. My hatred is skewing what might be an enjoyable meal, and it's not really a good reason to avoid eating.

Of course, I might also have no real opinion of the guy who owns the restaurant across the street, but I notice that he likes to use garlic in his cooking. I'm going to be hesitant to eat at his place, because I'm assuming that there will be more garlic down the road. I don't think there's anything "bad" about not eating his food. Even if not all of the dishes on his menu contain garlic, I know that I'm more than likely going to hit garlic, and I'd rather not. He enjoys using garlic, and plenty of people enjoy eating it. I don't, so I eat somewhere else. Some of my friends might be sad that I'm not a fan of that restaurant, but it's only a personal preference.

lordcloudx

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Re: Does bias imply a moral statement?
« Reply #2 on: September 10, 2010, 06:47:16 pm »
I'm going to go off on another tangent, since I feel it's also related to your reaction, mikey. For the sake of privacy, I won't disclose the person's name that I'm referring to in this example until I can get that person's consent.

So anyway, as a writer, I consider myself pretty versatile and I try to prove this in all my works by taking on all kinds of different subject matters and genre - including love comedy, drama, slice-of-life, action/adventure and children's stories so far.

However, I was surprised at this one particular person's reaction when he said that a particular short story I recommended wasn't for him based on the fact that he read something else I've written and concluded that my style just wasn't for him. I tried to convince him that I try to write differently for each story and to at least give one of my stories a try. He did try a very short story (4k) I wrote but stopped reading at the introductory portions because he claims that he just couldn't stand it.

What I find strange is that that particular story http://www.fictionpress.com/s/2816784/1/The_Blackbird wasn't written in my usual style and took on a subject matter that I'd never really written about before.

This person went on to say that my style probably just doesn't suit him and I should continue writing for those who like it, but that's just it. I write my stories for a general audience. I expect anyone to be able to read them and at least finish them, considering that they're mostly short stories. We had a long chat about this recently and from what I can see, this person just decided to attach a negative bias on any story as long as it was written by me and the story would have to overcome this bias to qualify as satisfactory enough for him to at least finish.

In any case, this made me angry as a writer. I don't like this kind of bias. As to the person himself, I still think he's a nice guy. I'm not really making any moral judgments on his actions, I just don't like them on a personal level. Er... on that note, just like your decision not to play Narcissu 2nd based on what is (to me) a very trivial reason, mikey. I respect it, but I personally don't like it, either.

@sake-bento: I agree with most of what you said except:

In contrast, let's say that I really hate the guy who owns the restaurant across the street, and my reason is entirely unjustified. If I refuse to eat at his place just to snub him, then that makes me a jerk. My hatred is skewing what might be an enjoyable meal, and it's not really a good reason to avoid eating.

I think it's ok to hate the restaurant just because you hate the guy who owns it. Could it really be an enjoyable meal eating inside the restaurant of a guy you hate? What if he suddenly turns up? Good meal instantly gone bad, I'd say (for me, anyway). It's like in visual novels, even if it's potentially the best game I've never played, I'll never be able to enjoy it if I am personally aware that the creators are a bunch of elitist jerks.

In response to the original thread title, I'll go with sake-bento in that I  think a bias may or may not imply a moral statement. It's all a case-to-case basis.
« Last Edit: September 10, 2010, 06:53:33 pm by lordcloudx »

mikey

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Re: Does bias imply a moral statement?
« Reply #3 on: September 10, 2010, 09:24:46 pm »
I'd throw yet another dilemma into this mix that is kind of also tangentially related - breaking up with a girl/boyfriend without any fundamental reason (like cheating would be) - and insisting the person who wants the breakup tells you why - which can often lead to ridiculous explanations when the other person desperately tries to rationalize with logic what is ultimately a matter of chemistry just because the other person insists on it. Sure, you can try to logically explain love and relationships and it's possible, to a certain degree. But much like with art, there is a part of this that is so complex and intuitive that it brings no benefit to anyone to (geekily) dissect it - call it chemistry when it comes to relationships, call it taste / bias when it comes to art.

But even if explanation would be possible, does explaining a bias and making it logically understandable guarantee acceptance by others? In other words, if I know the precise reason for the girl dumping me, will it make it less painful, especially if it's honest? Or if I make her understand her dumping me is not logical, will she suddenly love me again?

Well, I don't think so. Actually, it's perhaps even impossible to logically explain any sort of bias at all, because bias never withstands logic (everything is relative to the point of view, so the bias always disappears or is rendered unlogical when confronted with the proper point of view - which doesn't actually "solve" the problem of the bias, it just makes it a matter of point of view / whim). So...

Quote from: lordcloudx
Er... on that note, just like your decision not to play Narcissu 2nd based on what is (to me) a very trivial reason, mikey. I respect it, but I personally don't like it, either.

... this (lordcloudx's quote / understanding) is in fact perhaps the best and only way to solve this. I tried to explain with logic all that I could about my bias, but the rest of it, the deeply "personal" part which is either too complex or which I don't even (try to) have figured out, that rest is something that is impossible or cannot be expected of someone (me) to explain rationally - hence you then have to decide whether you can accept that as my personality, not take it personal, and continue to have respect for me as a person despite this disagreement - or you feel like it's cutting too much into your core values as a person and would make you lose respect.

Of course in this particular case I wouldn't expect any other reaction (or reaction form) than this from lordcloudx - he is a friend and I have explained my bias with honesty, and I know him well enough to know he won't dismiss me because of this (yes, of course it's impolite to assume, but you know how I mean it), so it's not a big deal for us to disagree on something (which we often do), because I would say our basic values especially concerning creation of VNs are very similar, and that's one of the main grounds for the respect.

And in fact, I know how that feels from my own experience - in one of my games, one person also had problems with a single feature that made him not play it - I think the best way to describe it would be that I felt it was all really unfortunate. I respected his reason, I didn't think less of him, but it didn't make me any less frustrated to know he will never play it.

Quote from: sake-bento
In contrast, let's say that I really hate the guy who owns the restaurant across the street, and my reason is entirely unjustified. If I refuse to eat at his place just to snub him, then that makes me a jerk. My hatred is skewing what might be an enjoyable meal, and it's not really a good reason to avoid eating.

I'd also be with lordcloudx on this - it's a mixture of all factors. The experience of going into a restaurant is the place, the owner, the person, the meal, the ambience, the time, the circumstances, all put together.

It's no doubt that any of the many factors of enjoying a restaurant (the place, the owner, the person, the meal, the ambience, the time, the circumstances) will have an impact on the overall experience. Your specific point of course being  irrationally disliking the owner and having a skewed experience as a result of that - but most importantly placing all the "blame" for this irrational disliking purely on yourself (hence the reason for the non-enjoyable time is only you). My take on this is that to a certain degree there is no blame at all - that you cannot be expected to feel bad about yourself just because you dislike a nice person for no logical reason.

I would compare it with a movie actor, who is a good person, excellent actor and he gives back as well. But my wife doesn't like him. There is no reason, and she doesn't have any animosity towards him, doesn't despise him or anything. He just gives her this creepy vibe or something, and so... we don't go see the movie he is in. It's totally biased without any reason, and I absolutely disagree with her - however, it's perfectly alright, and I don't think less of my wife or in fact any person who finds this actor creepy or whatever the word.

Of course I'm not saying you should never think about the irrationality of your bias and make attempts to get rid of it if possible - my wife did give the actor a fair try, and I've been able to persuade her to see a movie with him recently as a sort of another attempt after some time has passed. But nothing, and that's alright, I'm not really going to try to get her to like him anymore - her disliking she cannot explain, but she is being open and honest and I don't see anything in her reasoning or feelings that I could hold against her - therefore it's fine. I don't find her bias morally wrong (or with any kind of moral statement to it, for that matter), to return to the topic.
« Last Edit: September 10, 2010, 09:31:37 pm by mikey »

anomaly

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Re: Does bias imply a moral statement?
« Reply #4 on: September 10, 2010, 09:31:01 pm »
Spoiler for length:
I start this topic because I got completely sidetracked by replying to anomaly in the Narcissu 2 topic :), I'm so sorry. His comment made me think about a lot of the contexts about being biased. Anyway, here it is - anomaly replied to me dismissing N2 after playing just the demo and only because the girl refers to her hands as "small hands", which I explained by saying I feel it's like breaking the 4th wall for me.

Quote from: anomaly
IMHO I think that's misjudging the work. It doesn't seem to be fair to dismiss the whole work for something like that for no good reason. That's from the demo you said? That's not even half the content. If it bothers you that much you can just skip past that line.
I strongly suggest you give it another try.

When people suggest with reasonable arguments that I'm being unfair, my first reaction is to try to apologize or find some rationalization for the bias. You're completely right in saying it's not fair to dismiss things based on a single "red flag", especially if that red flag is not a recognized moral issue (like if I had a problem with nudity or religious content). It's perhaps also like dismissing something based on poor graphics or that it's done by "this company I don't like" - it does feel shallow and very unfair, especially when something you care about is dismissed like this, without giving it a chance at all.

But even so, I have to wonder if I should really put my energy into giving these things a fair chance. I think there has to be a limit to what you can be open to - it's not possible to like all genres of film, and with time people will develop certain tastes and avoid genres that don't give them as much as other genres based on who they are and their life circumstances. And once they are stable in their preferences, they will look for typical indicators of content they will not like to spare themselves the energy or re-evaluating - those are the red flags. I have my own set of those for VNs, and though it's easy to label me as superficial because I dismiss things based on them, I'm hoping people will understand that this is more than anything a mechanism to protect me from the incredible amount of time and energy I would have to spend if I had to give a fair chance to any VN, any film or any genre of music - if my own "map of preferences" which I now use to navigate through the content and genres out there, so to speak, was to always be blank.

Of course, typically people won't have the context of my entire life, which is normal - and when someone sees my comment on Narcissu, it's easy to assume I'm not giving it a fair chance - because I'm not explaining my life situation along with it, it's not apparent how I came to dislike the genre, and whether or not I like to perhaps enjoy this kind of content in a different form (like in a film; which would most probably not have the issue of referring to oneself in diminutive, as it's low on inner monologue, typically). I do see how that comment about me dismissing N2 as a whole, and perhaps even the whole genre with it, not just seems, but I'm sure IS in your perception - unfair.

But I hope you understand that I don't want to argue with you or be insulting when I say that despite of what you pointed out, and despite the fact that I find it absolutely logical and I agree with you that it's unfair - that knowing I am unfair still won't make me give N2 another chance. At least not now, or in the near future. I know you never accused me of this - it's a general thought - but while writing this and trying to explain why I am unfair, it occurred to me that we perhaps perceive unfair people as bad people too often, or that unfairness is synonymous with something negative.

---

So to completely derail this Narcissu 2 topic (and I'll create a separate thread because of this), what is your opinion on bias or being unfair in conjunction with being a bad or immoral person? Or more specifically, does bias have to come with a moral stance to it? Do you necessarily consider someone who is being clearly unfair (like bashing some product - not as flamebait, but a genuine dislike) a bad person? Do you require him to be more empathic and look at all sides of the story all the time (not counting actual journalists, because they in fact should)? Or do you require empathy from a stranger, but accept bias if it's your friend?

Because my bias in this case has nothing to do with any moral stance - you then may think it's pure convenience (avoiding thinking about things too much by putting them into "stereotype boxes" based on experience), but I actually think it's even a necessity, because you wouldn't be able to function as a person with constant openness to everything - not to mention you would probably have no personality if you had no bias.

I don't think that being biased, having a simplified view on some things necessarily means that you don't understand their depth. I can be very dismissive of Narcissu, but still understand that under different circumstances it could give me a lot more than it can give me now. Also, when I don't like RPGs of any kind and use simplified statements like "RPGs are a time sink", it doesn't mean I don't respect their creators or that I think RPGs are morally wrong.

Anyway, just something to think about on Friday, if you'd like to.  :)
Well, I honestly think this is overthinking the matter on this VN and on my suggestion. It shouldn't be a difficult decision to choose to read a VN after all; there are more important things than this. I don't know if it's really something warranting this detailed analysis of bias. But I do think that you might not be letting the VN simply present itself as something quite enjoyable and a quality work. I'm just pointing out that there's something quite interesting here, and while you don't have to read it, I can suggest it in its behalf since you didn't get to read it yet.

I personally have finished N2 recently (not the demo, the whole thing) and I don't even remember what you presented, so who knows, it might not have been included in the final version. In any case, you're assuming that just because you detected a flaw, that problem represents the nature and quality of the work, but there's simply not enough evidence to conclude that. The "bias" you talked about is a matter of preference, and indeed, different people of course have different tastes. However what you pointed out earlier doesn't seem to do so much with preference, because it doesn't pertain to the nature of the whole work, but rather something very specific and should be taken as something minor relative to the nature of the whole work, unless you have a very good reason. I just don't know why you think "amount of time and energy I would have to spend" would be wasted on N2 because of a detail that doesn't even really represent how the VN actually is.

You don't have to read it of course; it's not unfair if you simply choose to not read it. However, I do think it's a good idea for you to reconsider holding a negative view of N2 based on the detail you found. That's really what I would say is considered "unfair" regarding the topic of bias - if you draw irrational conclusions based on your preference. That's the purpose of the suggestion, to explain that N2 is a quality work that offsets some technical or sketchy flaws and errors such as these.

Let me just ask you one thing. Have you read N1, and enjoyed it?
« Last Edit: September 10, 2010, 09:37:19 pm by anomaly »

mikey

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Re: Does bias imply a moral statement?
« Reply #5 on: September 10, 2010, 10:24:32 pm »
Well, it was that comment that got me thinking in much more abstract terms, so that's why I decided to just make a philosophical topic about this. :)

To be pragmatic about Narcissu - I have played N1 completely when it came out, and I ended up not liking it. That is not really unexpected, I generally dislike melancholic stories (as books), and N1 was one of the first VNs to make me realize I don't like such stories in VN form either. The reason I dismissed N2 so quickly was also mainly because I kind of knew it's not my style anyway. Plus, when this thing that is my huge nitpick came up as well, it was an easy excuse to not even try.

I'm not saying I will absolutely never give N2 a try, and it may well even be that the final N2 version doesn't have that nitpick of mine, which would be kind of ironic. In a way though, I now try to be honest about my dislike for the genre, because I think with N1 I felt obligated to give it a try, because it was the big thing, even though I knew it's not my cup of tea - and in the end it wasn't surprising to me that I didn't like it when I played it.

I do feel like there are parallels to my wife not liking this actor. I just don't see her growing to like him. And much like she isn't saying his movies aren't quality works, I am not saying N2 isn't a quality work in that sense. I do think that perhaps my tastes may change once I stop creating my own VNs and maybe then I will take the opportunity to go through games I didn't like before and based on how I and my situation have changed, be able to appreciate them. You can never really say - there was this game I played when I started with VNs, I absolutely disliked it, really criticized it in a review, and then I played it years later to realize it was an enjoyable experience because I or my circumstances have apparently changed.

Anyway, I think my bad conscience about disliking things without something that qualifies as a "valid" reason is based on precisely that perception or expectation that while I am allowed to dislike something, the disliking has to be supported by a logical or acceptable explanation. The question I am raising is whether that is necessarily true and to what extent people are willing to accept dislikes for no logical or rational reason. But that's repeating myself, sorry.

anomaly

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Re: Does bias imply a moral statement?
« Reply #6 on: September 10, 2010, 11:12:06 pm »
It's fine if you don't read it or if you simply don't like it; there's a problem though, if you're mixing it with something else. I guess I want to say that if one does not like something for a specific trait, one must realize that it's because of that trait and not because of its quality or anything. One should make clear the difference between preference and actual condition of it.

Honestly whether or not you read it isn't that important. So why do I suggest it? It's because I feel that there's a lot of good quality you may miss out on and I just want to let you know. Since you have not read it, you may not know how it is and what to expect of it.

On a side note, N2 has a very different flavor than N1 in some parts. It has a lot more characters, more voicing if you prefer that (feels like drama CD), and is generally lighter in mood. These give the VN more lively atmosphere. It's also deeper and explores more themes. N1 by contrast tends to be a bit repetitive at parts, so it's more simplistic, but N2 varies things better. Finally, it's longer. The chapters are plentiful and you get full background stories on the secondary character rather than just brief flashbacks that only give you hints.

That person that lordcloudx mentioned for instance has things mixed up. The person can choose to not like the work and not read the person's works because of preference, but "negative bias" sounds like the person turned a personal dislike into a perception of negative quality. That's not good. Just because there's something wrong with it in one sense doesn't mean it's bad in another aspect. The person needs to be clear about the cause of the dislike, and not speak about things the person doesn't actually know about.
Quote
I think it's ok to hate the restaurant just because you hate the guy who owns it. Could it really be an enjoyable meal eating inside the restaurant of a guy you hate? What if he suddenly turns up? Good meal instantly gone bad, I'd say (for me, anyway). It's like in visual novels, even if it's potentially the best game I've never played, I'll never be able to enjoy it if I am personally aware that the creators are a bunch of elitist jerks.
Well if you hate the owner of the restaurant I think in general it may be justifiable. The restaurant belongs to the owner and thus has associated ties with it. There may be reasons to make the association.

Now it's another thing if you see the person you hate in the restaurant and because of that you hate the restaurant. That's simply an "unreasonable" cause for hate, because it judges the whole based on an unrelated or irrelevant detail. The person just happened to be in there, that's all. You can't blame the restaurant for it.

Still, following from what I said earlier, "Know clearly the reason for not liking it" - you can still choose to avoid the person, and along with it the restaurant. In order to not clash with that person, you can make the decision to not go to the restaurant. It's just that you should be aware of what you're actually doing and not confuse things.

It's not exactly the same scenario because the detail is indeed part of the work, but in that case, it would be a matter of judging the quality and such.

 

anything