Here we sit at the beginning of a relationship, you-the-reader and me-the-author. On one level, this is the easiest relationship in human society, which is part of how the advent of the printing press and the subsequent Protestant Revolution and Enlightenment were able to have such a broad impact on the development of the Western Academic Tradition, whose fingertips are all over the legal and political world we still enjoy today, but more we will get to that in a bit. This is about you and me. One reason our relationship is the easiest in the history of our glorious species, is that our relative informational positioning is established; that is: there is something that I know that you are interested in knowing, and the extent of our relationship is limited to that single exchange. How that makes ours the easiest and maybe the only platonic human relationship is what we are going to explore, as a launching point for further discovery.
This relationship is easy is because it respects the relative autonomy of each of the people involved. I can write whatever I want, and you can do whatever you want to what I have written. You have every right to feel like I have no idea what I am talking about, and even to then go around telling all your friends I am an idiot. Doesn't change who I am or what I wrote. My autonomy is protected from your autonomy by the distance of the page. In a similar vein, your autonomy is protected from my autonomy by that same distance, by decontextualizing my information from the person who exists with a complicated and irrelevant history. For example, in society, people who have more information have historically been very manipulative with that information, and used that advantage to oppress and demean the populace, and secure their position of authority, which they only have by virtue of being born into a system that allowed them both access to a broad array of information and the luxury to peruse at their literal leisure.
Here, connected and separated by these pages, we can meet on grounds of equal positioning, respecting each other's individual autonomy in a way that is near impossible in the physical world, due to the reality of inherited inequitability of socio-ideological positioning. Even here, we do not operate in complete equality; rather, we manufacture a defined inequality, with optional temporarity as a fundamental pretext of the relationship. If you read the paper, then you will know what I know, and the context of our initial relationship is eliminated. In this way we eliminate the inequality by first defining it. This same premise of temporary inequitability is the also the foundation of any healthy educational or counseling interaction, two of the more intentional contexts of human interaction.
Unfortunately, this decontextualized version of alleviating positional inequitability is difficult to apply in a broad social context, in part due to the many complicated kinds of inequality happening when we return to societal context. The vast, pervasive diversity and variability of all the iterations of inequality make this manner of searching for equality by defining inequality akin to trying to find a golden needle in a stack of hay by identifying each individual straw as being definitively not-gold. On top of that, all of these different kinds of inequality are difficult to talk about (Yamato, as cited in Anzaldua, 1990), because everyone emotionally attached on deep and personal levels to different parts of the complicated societal puzzle. That general, ubiquitous nature of the difficulty becomes the same thing lost in the nature of your and my relationship, here. We have simplified and defined our inequality, so we can just get to the business of communicating.
Another benefit of the text-based nature of our relationship is that we have the luxury of introductions, and definitions of terms, and all manner of useful communication habits that often get skipped in the tyrannical urgency of social interactions. For example, we can examine why what we are talking about is difficult to talk about. In a written work, we can clearly identify the frame of reference within which the exchange of information is happening; at least, that is the goal.
To get a picture of how difficult this task is in social context, imagine explaining a game to someone who has never played that game before, or any game of that kind, but then imagine that you are playing that game, a game that you love, and that you are playing on a team, with this person who has never played anything like this, in a contest with real time consequences. In an athletic or video game context, you might start by telling them what position to play, or what button to push, but they don't know where the positions are, or the buttons! This is the difficulty of navigating in the real world, in any context: you don't know what you don't know, which includes what others may or may not know, and their awareness of that knowledge.
Further complicating things is that we are rarely in such a clear context of a game one person loves and the other has never played, which is a unique one-sided kind of inequity like our own across these pages. In more realistic context the information imbalance often goes in both directions, as each person knows things the other does not, and both operate in the shadows of each other's ignorance. While limited, the previous example illustrates three difficulties common in communication: Ambiguous Complexity, Inevitable Positional Inequity, and the bane of the human condition, Limited Time. Let's consider each of them, in the hope of minimizing their impact by defining them with a little more clarity.