Joho the Blog » What sort of Internet fanatic are you? (Myers-Briggs version)

What sort of Internet fanatic are you? (Myers-Briggs version)

Many of us have taken the Myers-Briggs test to determine exactly what type of personality we have. It places us along four dichotomies: Introversion-Extraversion, Sensing-Intuition, Thinking-Feeling, Judgment-Perception. You can express your personality type by using the first letter of the dominant element of each polarity (with an N for intuition since Introversion in a rather extraverted way claimed dibs on the I).

I propose three dichotomies that define your sort of Net personality. I’ll define each by its extreme expression:

1. Exceptionalist (E) vs. Ordinarist (O). Exceptionalists believe that the Internet is exceptional, extraordinary, and disruptive, the way, say, the printing press was. Ordinarists believe that the Internet is just another new medium, no more revolutionary than, say, CB radio.

2. Technodeterminist (T) vs. Contextualist (C). Technodeterminists believe that the Net by itself brings about transformations against which it is futile to struggle. Contextualists believe that technology by itself does nothing and changes nothing; other factos determine the effects of technology.

3. Optimist (H) vs. Pessimist (P). Optimists believe that the Net is, or brings about, good things. Pessimists believe otherwise. (Note: Since everyone believes their beliefs are true, everyone thinks they are a realist. When someone actively asserts s/he is a realist, s/he is actually asserting a form of counter-optimism, i.e., pessimism.) (Note: The “H” stands for Happiness or Hope.

I’d love to get a fourth dichotomy for symmetry with Myers-Briggs. Let me know if you can think of one. People who see the Net as a tool or as a world? People who see the Net as a participatory space or as a communication medium?

For the record, I am ETH, although I am a very weak T. Nicholas Carr is (as I read his book) a strong ETP. Ethan Zuckerman, danah boyd and Larry Lessig are, I believe, ECH’s. Seth Finklestein may be a OCP, although I think he would be a weak O.

24 Responses to “What sort of Internet fanatic are you? (Myers-Briggs version)”

  1. I think I’m exactly the same as you, down to the weak T.

  2. ala Shirky/Pinker vs. Carr – how about Smarter (S) vs. Dumber (D).

    Smarter
    Shirky
    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704025304575284973472694334.html

    Dumber
    Carr
    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704025304575284981644790098.html

    Smarter, redux
    Pinker
    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/11/opinion/11Pinker.html

  3. Or, as my friend Ken S. said 40 years ago “There are two types of people in the world: those who divide the world into two types of people, and those who don’t.”

  4. What a cool idea.

    I’m going to take exception to your first dichotomy as being unhelpful. It’s tough for me to imagine a genuine O who has enough context to state a meaningful opinion on any of the other questions. An OTH? I don’t think so.

    In addition, that characterization, while clever, also seems skewed. If the alternative to printing press is CB radio, the range seems too broad to be fair. using CB as an alternative seems pejorative/disdainful to me.

    (I did, however, once hear Kevin Kelly reject “printing press” as too limited. “I thinkn it’s more like fire,” he said, straightfaced.

  5. Me: ECH

    I think hope is different from optimism, however. I am Not Optimistic But I Do Have Hope.

  6. Re Hope:

    Hope is a state of mind, not of the world. Either we have hope or we don’t; it is a dimension of the soul, and it’s not essentially dependent on some particular observation of the world or estimate of the situation. Hope is not prognostication. It is an orientation of the spirit, and orientation of the heart; it transcends the world that is immediately experienced, and is anchored somewhere beyond its horizons …Hope, in this deep and powerful sense, is not the same as joy that things are going well, or willingness to invest in enterprises that are obviously heading for success, but rather an ability to work for something because it is good, not just because it stands a chance to succeed. The more propitious the situation in which we demonstrate hope, the deeper the hope is. Hope is definitely not the same thing as optimism. It is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out.

    – Vaclav Havel

  7. P.S. I claim ECH as well.

  8. Human (L) vs. Bot (B)

    I’m an ECHL, but a weak L as I’ve repeated failed the Turing Test and have great difficulty with captchas.

  9. To Howard’s point about the first pairing being unhelpful: A major way these three differ from Myers-Briggs: M-B’s polarities are independent of one another. These are not. So, you’ve put your finger on a weakness.

    And to the pejorative nature of “CB”: I was trying to give extreme positions as examples. It’s been a while, but there have been those who compared the Net to CB. I’d thought about saying “telegraph,” but I figured I’d get comments like: “Don’t you know just how transformative the telegraph was??” (Cf. “The Victorian Internet.”)

  10. Fourth dichotomy: Should the net be viewed as a place (L, for location) or as a medium (M).

  11. Being perfectly pedantic about this, I note that the reference to “Internet” is itself limiting, since it refers to a specific technological implementation of electric communication. I’ll buy “Net” because it includes the spaces and places of connection, irrespective of protocol or specific implementation (i.e., technically speaking, the Internet doesn’t include mobile connectivity in most cases; “Net” does).

    To a possible fourth dichotomy scale, how about Diminishing (D) time/space vs. Expanding (X) time/space. Ds believe that the Net eliminates spacial differences and eliminates all but the present. Xs believe that the Net creates new, expanded spaces of engagement, and broader timescales (sort of a fifth dimension sort of thing, pun intended).

    Me? I’m an ECHX (weak X).

  12. Err…. spatial in the above.

  13. David, this is a great discussion post. I’m *definitely* Contextualist, and pessimist under your construction of realist == “counter-optimism, i.e., pessimism”. It’s not the best wording given the political implications – maybe “Idealist vs. Realist” would be better (Idealist vs. Cynic? Hope vs. Realist?)

    “Ordinarist” indeed tends to nullify everything else. The “Exceptionalist (E) vs. Ordinarist (O)” scale strikes me as measuring roughly the product of how far someone is along the “Technodeterminist (T) vs. Contextualist (C)” AND from the middle of “Optimist (H) vs. Pessimist (P)”. That is, if one is extreme Optimist *or* Pessimist, *and* heavily Technodeterminist, he or she essentially has to be highly Exceptionalist. While if somebody is very Contextualist and not so extremely Optimist *or* Pessimist, then I believe that would be scored as Ordinarist (which feels to me what you’re saying in “I think [Seth] would be a weak O”).

    A good fourth dichotomy would be along the lines of C.P. Snow’s “Two Cultures”, Science (S) vs. Humanities (U). Or maybe more colloquially, Geek vs. Poet. There’s some very different thought-patterns at work, which are extremely visible at times in issues like the reaction to propositions such as the brain is a computer.

    Many highly “Science/Geek” people are Technodeterminist and Optimist, but a significant minority are not, and those tend to be Contextualist and maybe slightly Pessimist. It parallels right-wing (conservative, libertarian) vs left-wing (liberal, leftist) divisions.

    What Lessig was doing in his book _Code_ was a Poet trying to find a framework where Geek and Poet Contextualists could talk to each other, and to make the combined intellectual case against Technodeterminist views.

  14. I’m ExH,

    where x=something halfway between T & C.

    great post — sometimes it is good to say who we are :-)

  15. I agree with Seth — great discussion post!

    As I’m about halfway through Nicholas Carr’s book and really enjoying it, I’d probably have to class myself with him as an ETP by your metric. [ However, as I am also a strong P on the Myers-Briggs, I do reserve the right to change my position as I learn more. ;-) ]

    I do think it’s worth noting that Carr may not be as much of a Technodeterminist and certainly not as much of a Pessimist as the current public discussion paints him. If his motivation for writing The Shallows is the same as mine would have been, he may merely be trying to give voice to grossly under-represented (but perhaps widely held?) opinions.

    How would you classify Linda Stone? ECH? I appreciate her focus on how _how_ we use technology determines its impact on us. Does that make her a strong C?

    What if I think that technology does carry an “intellectual ethic” that interacts with culture, and that interfaces can be designed to encourage certain patterns of behavior, but that the way we utilize technology as individuals gives us at least some degree of control over it rather than it over us? Maybe I’m a Contextualist after all.

  16. Interesting post and discussion, David. (It seems I’m ETH, but also weak on the T angle perhaps.).

    I like the various suggestions for a fourth dichotomy brought up in comments so far. Mark (above) suggested time: I wonder whether you can create a dichotomy specifically around time (how we perceive it) that would relate in a significant way to your “internet fanatic” scale?

    The internet in some ways wreaks merry hell with our experience of time, whether we indulge its ability to suspend, accelerate, or anticipate time, or whether we resist it. In particular, I’m thinking about the work of Philip Zimbardo (The Time Paradox), which I blogged about briefly on May 22 (albeit not in the context you’re presenting). In Zimbardo’s analyses, our perception(s) of time really shape what we do with our lives, and if the internet influences how we perceive time, then that’s a strong argument for including it in your set of dichotomies.

  17. Yule, thanks for your Zimbardo post. I haven’t seen his lecture yet, but your commentary makes it sound quite interesting, especially to us Heideggerians, since Heidegger was all about recognizing that our understanding of all that IS is conditioned thoroughly by its type of time. Time guides his analysis of the history of philosophy (for Plato, that which is most real is eternal), what it means to be human (we live mainly futurally, and with the understanding that we’re going to die), and the nature of things.

    I know I wrote about the Net’s temporality in Small Pieces Loosely Joined, but I don’t remember what I said :(

  18. I have your fourth. I don’t know what the letters should be but it’s if you believe the web brings people TOGETHER or ISOLATES them more. Yes, we have communities of interest and instant communication with people all over the globe, but don’t most people sit on their computer by themselves, and it’s kind of like writing a book. Yes, you get responses, but you can’t touch, smell, taste or hear (sometimes you can), the responses.

  19. [...] Two interesting posts this week on how our personalities affect our online behavior. First, Paul Dunay (did I mention that Paul is my favorite B2B blogger yet today?) expresses shock that he turned out to be an extrovert on the Myers-Briggs personality test and wonders if you need to be an extrovert to be in social media. Then David Weinberger, big thinker, co-author of the Cluetrain Manifesto (and nice guy) proposed an interesting framework for determining our internet personalities. [...]

  20. [...] Two interesting posts this week on how our personalities affect our online behavior. First, Paul Dunay (did I mention that Paul is my favorite B2B blogger yet today?) expresses shock that he turned out to be an extrovert on the Myers-Briggs personality test and wonders if you need to be an extrovert to be in social media. Then David Weinberger, big thinker, co-author of the Cluetrain Manifesto (and nice guy) proposed an interesting framework for determining our internet personalities. [...]

  21. [...] Joho the Blog » What sort of Internet fanatic are you? (Myers … [...]

  22. Yay! We like toys/games! :)

    I am 100% Exceptionalist (for me, Johannes Gutenberg is the most important person of the 1st half of the 2nd millennium, Tim Berners-Lee the most important person of the 2nd half – actually that’s interesting – you said “Internet” and I cited the inventor of the Web. Even though the Net is a superset of the Web and so does everything it does and more, I do think that it’s the Web that changes everything)

    I am 85% Technodeterminist. Just as we are hosts for genes to reproduce themselves, I do think we are hosts for memes and technology to reproduce themselves. You can argue that anything that’s possible to invent, will be invented. Even if you have a George W. Bush who hates scientists, drives them out of his country, and destroys a nation’s half-century of scientific leadership in a single administration… those scientists will just flee to other more progressive nations and do the work anyway. It’s funny that David calls himself an “ETH”… if you come to ETH Zurich, you’ll find that the place is filled with Iowa farm boys!!

    Did I just digress?

    I don’t think that you can prevent anything from being developed. But you can change the rate of development. I like to think of it as river rafting. It’s a lot more about the river than it is about you, and you’re pretty much going where the river wants to go. Then again, if there’s a big rock in front of you, a little steering to the right or left could significantly change your experience. So, mostly about the river/technology, but we can steer a little bit and that’s pretty important.

    I am 90% Optimist. There’s plenty to be pessimistic about. I just listened to Lisa Nakamura’s talk on “enlightened racism” – depressing stuff. In fact the larger idea, besides the chauvinism that the currency of the web/life is lol, that’s troubling. But if you think about the developed world, if citizens there don’t happen to have their lives cut across by illness, they often do live in “entertainment culture” with or without the net.

    I have students who spend 60 hours a week on Facebook, which for me is a fairly contentless site. BTW, has anyone projected how long it will be till Facebook passes India and becomes the 2nd most populous nation on earth?

    I could go on, but that’s enough already, plenty to be pessimistic about. But for every “Google making us stupid” there’s a network of people building something amazing. I like to liken Wikipedia to the starship Enterprise – you could never build the Enterprise on earth, it would collapse, it can only be built in the weightlessness of space, and Britannica is probably as big as you can go in the gravity of paper, for Wikipedia you can only build it in the “weightlessness” of the cloud.

    When you look at these large problems of today – Global Warming, Global Water, etc, they don’t seem solvable by a solitary genius, they do seem like “network” problems that need network solutions. So perhaps our networked/ADD culture is appropriate for these kinds of issues.

    Because the web is disruptive, it’s easy to be pessimistic about the losses. We don’t interact with our physical neighbors as much as we may have in the past, but we now have virtual neighbors who we share more in common with.

    Going back to the river rafting analogy, it seems, well, pessimistic to be a pessimist! If we’re going there anyway, it’d be insane not to “find the fun” – wouldn’t it?! Also, hmm… is this another axis? Creationist vs Evolutionist? Well, not exactly, but if you think that Homo sapiens are the ultimate manifestation of intelligence in the universe, then lots of things, AI for example, become creepy because they threaten to mess up perfection. On the other hand, if you think our species is a pretty amazing, robust, plastic form that none-the-less is just “a” form, not the ultimate form, then why wouldn’t intelligence evolve to other forms over time and why is that bad.

    Anyway, back to the river, I don’t see how you can put your back to the wall and try to stop the river by chanting the mantra “not on my watch” – even if you win, you lose! I’d much rather jump on the uncertain raft, steer it a little and see where we find ourselves.

    kk – so I guess I’m:

    ETH – 100/85/90

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