This blog now primarily focuses on the digital anthropological analysis of Lockhorns. However, when I started this blog I did not have the slightest inkling that anthropology would become the bedrock of our platform. This blog was a pure inscription of my mind.
Hello! This is the first post for an experimental blog. Since my twin sister and I started working on Lockhorns, I have always been hit by bits of inspiration or had thoughts about Lockhorns’ social impact, and just opened up a google doc to write everything down. However, yesterday, I was struck by the feeling that my writing is next to useless if it just sits in a google drive backlog or in the inboxes of the people I have pitched Lockhorns to. I realized that my writing should additionally be shared on a public platform so others can read it and also give me feedback.
I think this blog will function as an organized aggregator of what I already have written down, and as a place where I can publish my best new thoughts, give quick updates about new features, or update the community if we are looking to try something new with the platform. The blog is currently nameless, so if you guys have any ideas for what I could call the blog please reach out via the contact form. As of now, I think I will post at least every Sunday and also throughout the week if there are things that I feel I just need to talk about.
If you are reading this in real time and see nothing but this post, look out for a new post coming Sunday. If you are from the future, I encourage you to browse for a bit and read some of the posts that catch your eye
Why The World Needs Lockhorns: Social Media
The ultimate goal of Lockhorns is to depolarize the public sphere, which means that the most important things that we can do are 1) encourage conversation and 2) dually organize it and make it productive. Addressing the former goal, having Lockhorns as a presence on social media opens people up to conversation and helps in combatting the unwillingness that people have to to engage in conversation with someone that does not agree with them. During 2020, which people are now calling the “summer of online activism,” it was commonplace to see people shut down conversation before it even happened. This was extremely illogical to me because the very worst thing that could ever come from a conversation is that you hear nothing new and your ideas don’t improve. In every other scenario, an “iron sharpens iron” phenomenon happens as people hear new ideas, and then have to fit them into their belief system. We need conversation, and conversation happens through posting discussions, not just political infographics that people largely skip over.
Why The World Needs Lockhorns: Social Media Pt. 2
Currently, many people are afraid to do things like asking questions online or explicitly state their political views if they are in the minority for some issues. Out of the tens of thousands of political comments I have read I have almost never seen a constructive argument. It is just not in the culture of social media to have debates, which is also partially fueled by the fact that it is very hard to because of the format
In a world where Lockhorns was popular on social media, it would make these things much more integrated into social media culture: asking questions to others regardless of their political affiliation, stating constructive arguments instead of yelling at others and demonizing them, and being open to others’ beliefs, cultures, and lifestyles
It allows both sides to a debate/question, whereas currently people only post about why their side is completely wrong and the other side is inhumane and devoid of morals to hold their stance. Also, people tend to live in political bubbles so they overwhelmingly follow people and other accounts that share their political bend. Lockhorns, with its agree and disagree arguments, rebuttals, and counter-rebuttals, solves for this.
Freewrite of Our Origination Story
The air was heavy with silence in the packed van. Felix Odenthal, now a junior at the Collegiate School in New York, and his friends were on the way home from cross country state championships. As usual after a tough loss, the boys were actively avoiding socialization, which inevitably turned sour, and had retreated into the familiar arms of social media. Unfortunately for Felix, his phone was dead, so his only option for entertainment was looking over his friend (pseudonym) Carl’s shoulder for glimpses of Instagram.
In no longer than a minute, Felix noticed a familiar pattern. While Carl scrolled through his “feed,” a compilation of posts about everything from politics, celebrity culture, sports, to memes, he unfailingly opened up the comment section of almost every post he came across. In fact, Carl probably spent more time in the comment sections of posts than looking at the posts themselves. Ding! Carl’s eyes lit up as a notification unfurled at the top of his screen. He tapped it and was transported to the comment section of an ESPN post, where his fingers immediately started flying. At his distance, Felix could only make out the words “Lebron,” “Goat,” “Buddy,” so he leaned curiously towards Carl and asked “Dude, what’s so urgent?”, breaking the van’s enduring silence. Carl laughed and held up his phone to Felix.
“Look at this idiot who thinks that Steph Curry is the goat.” he jeered. “I destroyed him in an argument and now he’s just writing essays insulting me.” Carl rapidly thumbed at his phone to show his multi-week argument with a complete stranger. Soon, everyone in the van was crowding over Carl to get a look, and the van rang with mirth.
“What’s the post, dude! This dude needs to get roasted.” (pseudonym) Sam yelled.
“Yeah, sauce the link! You know I’m the goat debater.” (pseudonym) Matt chimed.
Laughing yet slightly confused, Felix leaned back into his seat and continued to observe the transformed atmosphere of the van. So people check the comment section just as much as I do? He thought. I mean, I do it because I’m on the debate team and love online debate . . . Does everyone really care what random people on the internet think to the point that they would debate with them?
His ruminations were interrupted by shrieks of laughter from Carl, whom Felix assumed had just gotten a reply from his debate arch-nemesis.
Wait . . . if everybody loves to debate so much, social media comment sections can’t be the best option, right? There has got to be an online platform where people can go and just debate their hearts out about anything.
To my utter disappointment, there was no platform looking to facilitate the sort of online debate that everybody enjoyed and could benefit from
How to Change Minds
It allows everybody, both a user and all their followers, to see all input in an organized way that everyone can see in one place.
People’s minds can be changed- Not every Trump supporter is going to be bigoted and racist. Likewise, not every Biden supporter “hates the rich” and wants America to be “overrun by immigrants.” At the end of the day we are all people and we can change. Everybody has varied reasons for why they land on their dot on the political compass. .
It is only when people recognize that we are Americans first, and our ideologies second, that we can have productive conversations. The reason is that when we realize that we have to support each other and share the same goals for a better society, we can have a fundamental base to work off of. Currently, it feels like our country is split into two oppositional halves, where the sides simply want their agendas and policies pushed. I think we have to ground ourselves in the belief that the reason democracy exists is for the good of the people. The idea that most people, even if their beliefs are misguided, can have their minds changed if you prove to them that a new belief is what is best for them, their family, their community, and their country, is an idea that heavily resonates with me.
Why The World Needs Lockhorns: Education Space
Anybody who has been in a public space is aware of the schism between those who share and listen and those who purely listen. Lockhorns addresses the issue that talkative people often dominate verbal discussions and quieter people are afraid to voice their opinions. Many people who have not developed a public voice yet need a stepping stone to get their voice out there and make it heard: Lockhorns provides an intuitive, organized user interface and an anonymity feature so discussions can flourish unabated. The anonymity feature is key for many users, as it allows those with opinions that are in the minority to share without suffering a change in perception from their classmates. Finally, Lockhorns injects a level of fun in class periods or in homework where kids can immerse themselves in the world of current events, history, and politics overall. Kids have always jumped at the opportunity to have a conversation through a new medium where they are expressly told to debate their friends.
Small Update: Manifesto and Counter-Rebuttal
Hey guys! Check out changes to the manifesto. My sister and I spent some time sprucing it up. Also, you will now see that rebuttals have the little “+” plus icons next to them. Click them to see our newest feature!
Freedom of Speech (Pt. 1)
I don’t think that free speech is a just a “right among other rights.” I don’t think there’s any difference between free speech and thought. And speech has to be free because if it’s not free it’s not thought.
There is definitely a revelatory element of thought. When you think you have a problem so you ask yourself a question and then answers appear in the theater of your imagination, generally verbally. The fact that you can pose yourself a question and then you can generate answers is very mysterious. Questions like “why did you have the question if you can generate the answers?” are raised. Also, “if the answers are just there, where do the answers come from?”
On Lockhorns, even though people are arguing for one side, the journey that they took to formulate their beliefs that aligned with their chosen side was (hopefully) dividing themselves into two avatars that are oppositional and then allowing their mind to be the battle space between them. It is only through this clash that they come to their ultimate opinion.
This is what Lockhorns wants to showcase- People’s best thoughts. Seeing the best thoughts of others allows people to sharpen and organize their own, as you can compare your reasoning to an almost unlimited amount of opposing and agreeing thoughts.
Why Debate Teams Need Lockhorns
There is currently no way for debate teams, especially larger debate teams, to all collaborate at once. Currently, teams brainstorm contentions and rebuttals at the start of each topic and throughout the season by having people raise their hands to venture potential arguments that the teacher then writes on the whiteboard. Only the talkative kids speak, the teacher almost always runs out of space, and people forget about everything after practice because it isn’t digitized. Lockhorns solves all these problems.
Even if teams collaborate on a google doc already, Lockhorns is infinitely better because it is organized with pros, cons, and a response feature so people can write suggestions or rebuttals. Lockhorns is the only tool platform that is 1) organized for debate and 2) encourages people to use it for anything.
For the next couple of posts, I am going to expand the “Why The World Needs Lockhorns” posts into a new series about the positive impact we currently have and actively strive towards. I have been posting a lot about it and it is what has been predominantly on my mind, as it is all I think about when marketing. Putting everything into this blog will force me to consolidate everything into these short entries, which makes me internalize the rhetoric a lot more, and also organize my mind.
What even is anthropology? For many of you reading this, the extent of your acquaintance with anthropology is probably having encountered the word once or twice, and maybe knowing the definition. The best definition that I have come across is, “Anthropology is the study of humanity and how human behavior has developed over time.” And though anthropology is a bit arcane, that does not take away from how the field is the bedrock of Lockhorns, and how the applications of anthropology extend to every single person in the world.
Our description of Lockhorns in the manifesto is “a platform that organizes online discussions to make conversations and debates on the internet more engaging and civilized.” Our mission is “to encourage the clash of ideas to depolarize the public sphere.” A common piece of wisdom regarding how to start a business shines a light on why Anthropology is needed to accomplish anything at all with Lockhorns; Entrepreneurs commonly say that a business should be the furthest thing from “a solution in search of a problem,” but instead should be a solution that is x100 better than the next best thing that addresses an ever-present, ubiquitous problem.
In the case of Lockhorns, the natural course of action was to start to cultivate a deep knowledge of digital anthropology, specifically about social media and online debate, to better understand the “how” and the “why” behind people’s digital behavior. For instance, after learning more about the corrupting effect social media’s limited UX has on online discourse, we jumped to design the rebuttal and infinite counter-rebuttal feature, so discussions could flourish unabated on the platform.
P.S. As you guys can see, I have decided on the name “Anthrohorns” (a combination of the words”anthropology” and “Lockhorns”) for the blog. What do we think?
Online Behavior Observations
People are getting tired of their entire timeline (posts + stories on social media) being activism posts and reposted activism posts. LockHorns is something new, a different way of activism that asks for input and debate from a user’s followers, and will thereby get more interaction than simply an activism post.
People are naturally curious and love seeing what other people think, do, and believe. They will click on a Lockhorns widget that has arguments over a generic reposted post from a news source or an activism account any day. Resultantly, a user will have more interaction with their activism through lockhorns than in the status quo.
What do you guys think of this feature. The goal is to allow people on social media who want to discuss certain posts seamlessly.
Ex: Someone on instagram reposts a CNN post that says “Removing confederate monuments isn’t erasing our nation’s history, it’s telling the truth about it.” Under the repost, they would put a Lockhorns widget that is captioned something like- “Do you guys agree?”. Users can swipe up and debate with others by providing both pro and con arguments and responding to arguments too.
Why this is better than the current way: It encourages people on social media to ask for their follower’s opinions. Right now people who post political posts on instagram just spam posts but do not ask for their followers’ opinions that much. People are deterred from asking because it is currently not a “cool” or “popular” thing to do, it is a hassle to do it because it requires configuring something with two or three instagram widgets, and because they think it has no benefit. Lockhorns Horns solves all these problems
More Observations on Lockhorns’ Benefit
Because LockHorns is a debate platform and other social media are obviously not, debating on LockHorns elicits a new mindset where people are in the mood to debate and not inclined to comment in all caps, troll, and insult others.
A person’s followers can now see all the other followers’ perspectives in the Lockhorns interface. This is not possible on any contemporary social media, as the only mechanism of debate is through private messages or DMs. Users on Lockhorns opt in to displaying their opinions so everybody can reap the benefits of exposure to a diversity of beliefs.
Introduction to Ethnography
Ethnography gives you the capacity to truly listen to stories and is a new angle at trying to get people to genuinely open up. I’ve noticed that it is kind of paradoxical, as you have to step away from yourself, but you relate to others through who you are.
Beyond the nature of ethnography, the nature of anthropology and culture is paradoxical as well. Something that I have noticed from talking to users around the world is that the more detailed any human concept/practice gets, the more universal it becomes. This is because material culture is different, the symbolism is the same, and the underlying things that humans feel are true around the world.
A common anthropological term is kinship: a sharing of characteristics or origins. Around the world, people have different traditions and ways, but people share the same emotions surrounding them. The details of something make it pop and then it transcends culture.
Ideas on Community Feature
I have spent some time reflecting on Lockhorns holistically and then coming up with one goals to really set my mind to and orient everything around. I have come up with a goal which I think is 1) a really exciting prospect and 2) has the most potential for growth and eyeballs: Communities. The most important thing is to understand the current user base and why users are here. Over all the different Lockhorns users, whether it is debate teams, fans of a political/debate content creator, students, teachers, etc, the common thread is that they all come from established communities.
I think that developing this functionality could result in so many more eyeballs because it improves the interface and organization and plays off of what people already love as almost everybody is apart of communities in real life, and the only way to exist online is in communities. For instance, with content creators (debate/politics content creators are some of the biggest on the internet), the current benefits are: Provides an organized user interface for their followers to debate and interact with each other that is infinitely preferable to current options, therefore gets them more acquainted with their followers because they can have real, organized discussions with their fans instead of blippy one-liners floating down twitch chat or odd comments in the comment section, and is full of content potential like community vs community debates, video series’, using discussion to supplement the YouTube comment section. With the community feature, it allows for the key sense of continuity that was previously missing as now followers can still exist in that discussion community even after a stream/video, people can find the content creators through Lockhorns (will give option to link social medias), etc.
Anthropological Findings on Political Polarization (Pt. 1)
Something that I think is almost a must is to make more friends that are different than you politically because this allows you to understand other types of people more and the underlying reasons behind their experiences. This cultivates a mindset of viewing people as not better or worse, but simply as different, which is almost always the fairest judgment because there are different reasons, random chance probability, etc for ppl behaving the way that they do.
When you hear an idea that’s different than yours you’re not instantly thinking that’s like the worst type of person in the world but you have a little bit more of a foundation. With this mindset, I think people can build a super cohesive understanding of the world and of people.
Something that one of my users brought up to me was that he was really picky on Tinder. He said that when he had a dating app in front of him and had the a 52 item checklist that he could use to differentiate, he was inclined to go “okay I only want a woman that’s like this and that and that and and that,” or “I only want a man that’s like this or without this” and then swipe left on everything that did not satisfy anything. I think that the reality is that you can get along with way more people than you realize and the perfect person for you might not hit like even half the boxes you want.
The best example of this is a work environment and school. When you’re in school you’re thrown into a class with 10, 20, 30 people, you don’t know any of these people— There’s no 55 dimensions that you can control for. But somehow most people will make friends and many people even make a best friend.
Anthropology of Amazon Echo + Application to Lockhorns
This Amazon Echo Research is the intersection of anthropology and AI. This was really interesting to me and I think I can extrapolate a lot from the methodology for Lockhorns.
Methodology: Gave participants a device in Trinidad and San Francisco. Asked them to do a diary study when they used it each day.
Findings: Realized that people were using it in a much diff way than Amazon thought. For instance, the times when people used it most was when they were getting dressed to ask what to wear for work. The researcher found out that echo did not recognize darker participants, typical wear was seen as nudity, echo would suggest more conservative things like when asked what to dress up for work
Application to Lockhorns: The schism between the entrenched belief that you know the whens, whys, and hows behind your product and your users and the actuality. The fact that Amazon could be getting this wrong really put it into scale. I will act on this by conducting more interviews to see exactly when people use Lockhorns most commonly, why they pick it up then, and if we can accommodate the user experience as best as possible in these scenarios.
Where they published- Everyday Automation | Experiencing and Anticipating Emerging Technology
Anthropological Findings on Political Polarization (Pt. 2)
I can now confidently say that the biggest issue on the planet right now is that people live in different epistemic realities. Essentially, the way that people figure out like what’s true or false is just totally different and i think the scariest thing because you hit a divide where you can’t communicate anymore and then the divides will grow bigger and bigger.
I came into my research thinking that a decent portion of people enjoyed conversing with people they disagreed with, as in my personal life I love debating and arguing and will do so with anybody. However, when I interviewed a randomized selection of people on social media on the first feeling that came to mind when felt when they saw an opposing viewpoint, most responded with “annoyed” or “angry.”
This really concerned me, because when everybody separates because they can’t talk to each other anymore you just totally lose that and then both sides fly off into crazy directions. We can see this manifesting in congress: When people look at congress and think that it is broken because it isn’t passing any legislation, I actually think that this judgment is a bit too harsh and ignores the major contributing factor of political polarization. Historically, we are very divided as a country and I think congress reflects that. The impasse in congress actually makes a lot of sense— I don’t think that a democratic congress should be passing legislation nonstop, as it would not be representative of the populace, which is extremely divided about the direction the country should take.
Digital Anthropology with Lockhorns So Far
I have been just observing so far, and will make the transition into conducting interviews of individual members and content creators who drive traffic to the site this week. I have spent almost all my time observing the level of “civility” and “open mindedness” in discussions. One big test was observing discussions that had overwhelming support for one side vs. discussions where it was very very split, in which I realized that when the discussions were one sided there was a huge uptick name-calling, sarcasm, and even vulgar language.
I think a broader conclusion I could look into is that the Lockhorns culture is overall very open minded and collaborative, as opposed to culture on social media, because users on Lockhorns share an epistemic reality. For instance, the way that people on Lockhorns verify the validity of their arguments and the kindness of their speech his is by looking one inch to the side and reading the best counter arguments. However, people live in echo chambers on social media and it is really hard for them to see views from the other side, and are thus instantly combative when they see somebody who disagrees with them. Extrapolating from this observation, it would make sense why social media culture is so entrenched and polarized.
Ideas on How to Change Minds (Pt. 2)
This post comes from analyzing my ethnographical diary of Lockhorns, and also from my real life debate experience.
The most important thing is to not misrepresent somebody’s argument ever. Starting a discussion with an incorrect description of what happened weakens our arguments against those on the right that disagree with us. This is because we now have to begin by making concessions about lies or misrepresentations from people who purport to agree with us. Furthermore, it casts doubt about the truth of the rest of the argument for those in the middle who are unsure of where the fault lies.
In essence, you want to extract the essence of their arguments in the strongest form that they themself can imagine, and then interact with and refute that.
Freedom of Speech (Pt. 2)
The right to free speech isn’t to gain a hedonistic advantage. You have a right to free speech because the entire entirety of society depends on its ability to adapt to the changing horizon of the future on the free thought of the individuals who compose it.
Lockhorns aims to be a free market of thought and argument. We encourage our users to consciously engage with possibility every time they visit the platform. Freedom of speech is so important because this engagement with possibility can only be mediated through speech.
This is why I feel so strongly about political polarization— It is an impediment that is cracking this country into two. Societies that are going to function over any reasonable amount of time have to leave their citizens alone to grapple with complexity so that out of that grappling that’s difficult and sometimes even upsetting we can grope towards the truth collectively. If Lockhorns can help America and countries around the world increase the amount and quality of discourse, then we are accomplishing our mission.