Poe’s Law

I am intrigued by Poe’s Law about writing, especially social media posts,  for which there are no contextual or body language clues with regards to sincerity.  Here are some thoughts on clarifying Poe’s Law and related concepts.

“Poe’s law is an adage of Internet culture stating that, without a clear indicator of the author’s intent, it is impossible to create a parody of extreme views so obviously exaggerated that it cannot be mistaken by some readers or viewers as a sincere expression of the parodied views.” – Wikipedia Poe’s Law

I haven’t found a precise definition of Poe’s Law that stands up to scrutiny.   Often the definitions rest on the concept that at least one person will misinterpret a statement of satire, parody, sarcasm, or facetiousness.  The law also says it is impossible to create satire so extreme that at least one person won’t misinterpret it as sincere.   I don’t perceived any added value of tying the concept into a non-empty set of people, nor to the impossibility of creation a statement that can not be misinterpreted.  To simplify, Poe’s Law states that it can be difficult or impossible to tell if the poster was making either a sincere or a satirical comment.

Poe’s Law (simplified): It can be difficult or impossible to tell if the poster was making a sincere or a satirical comment.

The poster’s intent is either:

  • sincere
  • satire

The reader can percieve the post as being:

  • sincere
  • satire
  • unsure

This yields six combinations.  The sincere-sincere and satire-satire combinations are fairly uneventul because both people understand the polarity of the post.  The unsure reader can take steps to clarify if desired.  The real issues occur when we have sincere-satire and satire-sincere because the poster and reader have miscommunicated.

If the reader now applies the LIKE tag to a post, then a third person, an observer, can interpret the LIKE as being:

  • sincere
  • satire
  • unsure

So now we have 18 combinations of the observer’s possible interpretations of the LIKE.

My takeaway is that it is unwise to conclude you understand the views of another social media poster based on their posts, replies, and likes.

 

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s