Thursday, August 11, 2011

missing the point on spoilers

So this study that suggests that people like spoilers is getting a lot of play today. Unfortunately, there seems to be an error going on with a lot of the commentary. The whole point of spoilers is that they're unchosen; nobody really thinks that there's something wrong with people accessing secrets and endings about art they haven't yet consumed. What they object to is when spoilers are presented in a way that an unsuspecting person might unwittingly read them. The study suggests that people have a preference for knowing the ending, but preference involves choice. You can't deliberately act on a preference for foreknowledge of plot if you are presented the information without choosing to access it. So I don't see what the point is, exactly. Whether people prefer to know the ending or not is irrelevant to our conduct when it comes to the decision to include spoilers; even if most everybody prefers to know the ending, the point is that some people don't and spoilers should be presented in such a way that people can choose whether to access them.

1 comment:

Paul said...

Well written & well reasoned.

The error involved reminds me of a conversation I overheard on the NY subway back when Bloomberg introduced his smoking ban. The typical reaction, initially, was that Bloomberg was being heavy-handed, because he hadn't campaigned on the issue and had never sought any kind of public referendum. So a girl on the train was saying, shouldn't we get to vote on whether smoking is banned in bars? And the guy she was with said, with supreme and majestic certainty, that there was no need for a vote. The majority of the population didn't smoke: there was your vote right there, plain and simple.

The suspicion that a sizeable number of people consider this a valid form of argument is a bit terrifying.