Joho the Blog[2b2] Long-form, wide-form - Joho the Blog

[2b2] Long-form, wide-form

I woke up this morning with an idea to develop. I’m posting it here prematurely. Ironically (as you’ll see), I want more time to argue for it and tease it out. In fact, in part because I have to prepare for (= rewrite) a talk I give this morning, I’ll leave it at something like Twitter length: We will of course continue to write book-length, long-form arguments, but wide-form arguments are becoming more important (more important than they were and perhaps more important than long-form arguments). Wide-form arguments are spread out across the Web, and develop and apply an idea.

Yes, there are advantages and disadvantages, gains and losses. But, the assessment of them should (in my opinion) begin with an honest look at how important long-form arguments actually have been. It seems to me that most of the long-forms we think of as examples are actually a type of wide-form performed by a single person: Here’s an idea, and here’s some of its implications. The idea itself frequently is a short-form argument. Wide-forming the argument can develop the idea in unexpected ways and can apply it in unexpected circumstances.

Anyway, gotta go.

6 Responses to “[2b2] Long-form, wide-form”

  1. is _sein und zeit_ long form or wide form?

  2. could be similar to paradigm/syntagm

  3. I’m not quite sure if I get the gist of this new idea :-)
    More Long-Form arguments please :-)

  4. This could be an explanation for why some long form arguments (books) seem like brick walls. They are limited by the “one source” whereas wide form arguments are crowd sourced. Wide form arguments flow like water.

  5. So, I’m not saying long-form vs. wide-form is a well-thought out distinction, or that it cleaves the world cleanly. (Plus, I wrote the post in a hurry. Excuse excuses!) I also had trouble posting it from my hotel room; I kept getting “Post failed” responses. I apparently didn’t re-add some of the material I had put into the first failed post; I gave “Origin of Species” and Amartya Sen’s new book on justice as examples of long-form works that work.

    The paradigmatic long-form work is an argument that proceeds methodically to make a logical argument. It carries us along a chain of reasoning. Most books actually take a single idea and apply it repeatedly. But it’s very hard to distinguish these two approaches.

    Sein und Zeit (Being and Time) is an interesting case. It’s a-typical because Heidegger proceeds “phenomenologically,” trying to stay close to the phenomena he’s writing about. And, in the second half, he re-does the entire “description.” Of course, it’s not really just a description. It’s an argument. And, like a typical long-form book, by the time he gets to the end, just about everyone will have left the bus. That’s when he’s going on about destiny and rootedness (which turns out to actually be a a coded anti-semitic message).

    That’s one of the problems with long-form works: They rarely carry readers all the way along. E.g., Critique of Pure Reason. Oh, the general ideas are exciting, but does anyone actually believe in the details of Kant’s analysis?

    Wide-form has its problems. They flow like water (thanks, Barbara) but they are also as coherent as water, i.e., not very. But, they have the advantage of applying ideas to new circumstances, and applying those ideas in small enough bursts that they stay tied to the goodness of the original idea.

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