The culture of building 314 can, at times, be an echo chamber that isn’t really conducive to nuance or reason, and when that happens, it’s more than a literal breath of fresh air to step through that glass door, out of the dilapidated hallway of a gravely neglected computing department, and back into the real world.
There’s always a set of people who are unfortunate enough to be on the “shit list” of the collective consciousness of the floor. Some of our lecturers are on it — I’m sure you won’t have to think too hard for a few of them to spring to mind — as are some of our tutors, and some of our peers.
If you’re on the list, there are quite a few of us who would find it easier to only ever talk about you in a negative light. I can’t say that I’ve never been guilty of it. It can be easier to set aside the complexity of paying attention to all of the strengths, weaknesses, successes, and failures that shape a person.
Taking that complexity into account makes it harder to spin up yet another session of complaining — and talking shit — about a person. These sessions can be cathartic if, for example, we share a bunch of grievances about a lecturer. These sessions can feel rewarding, if not pleasurable, if we allow ourselves to mutually ostracise some people, in service of our ability to feel like we’re part of the community.
Nuance isn’t welcome in these sessions, because it usually makes them less effective. Play the double’s avocado for a unit that’s on the list by suggesting an example of a student who did find it useful, and like any thoughts that threaten the consistency of the accepted narrative, their opinions are dismissed without a second thought. We tell stories, old and new, about why a person on the list is an obnoxious idiot, and these stories gradually evolve over time, eroding any components that are superfluous to the goal of condemnation, let alone those that serve as obstacles to their punch lines.
In other words, the echo chamber becomes a tool, and as the most sophisticated of the primates by far, we’re the pioneering experts on the design and optimisation of tools. Sickly is the community that is defined, even in part, by whether or not you loathe the “correct” people. Until we decide to stop approving of it, or condoning it through inaction, we will inevitably make this tool as efficient as possible, no matter the cost.