Minister of Music
A Discord Discussion
"Discourse or Discreditable?"
Written by Unmighty Hezekon
(May 31, 2019) - I remember when I first arrived in Europeia. After getting my nation on NationStates, I looked around and tried to figure out what to do. I remember posting something along the lines of a "hello" in the RMB, and I was told it was highly suggested I go to the Discord. So I did. And then I found I had to get citizenship in order to really do much of anything. So I joined the forum. And then I was at the forum. And it was confusing. I didn't know where anything was. I wanted to get involved in stuff, but I wasn't sure where to go. Do I go to "Employment Central," or go straight to the Ministries? It was organized, sure, but it was a chaotic organization. I didn't know the history of Europeia at the time. (And, quite frankly, I still have a lot I don't know.) But I eventually got it all straightened out. And now I'm a Minister.
That could be the end of it, but you know from the title it isn't. I feel I owe a lot of my success to the Discord server. The ease of asking and answering questions, and the social atmosphere arising from its instant messaging, give the Discord a sense of ease of entry communication, vital to newcomers and veterans alike. And the 'facetime' people get due to its centralized nature, as well as the visibility of governmental officials to their electorate, give Discord an opportunity for upward mobility within the region. All of these are reasons why I feel the Discord is a platform of importance to the vitality of Europeia, and certainly to my current success within it.
Of course, Discord does have its downsides. The instant messaging can cause negative relationships to form, as well as giving Europeia's purposefully measured political discourse a difficult foothold. Another difficulty for Europeian politics arising from Discord is the inclusion of more 'social' players in the Discord server, who are focused less on the region's political nature. Finally, there is the notion of activity in the Discord server pulling activity from the Europeian forum, leading to its disuse.
Certainly, the success of my ability to find anything has been the Discord server. If (and several times so) I found myself confused with something, or not sure where to go or what to do, I turned to the Discord server, cried and pled at the feet of the people there, and they kindly answered my questions. My answers were found in a timely manner in Discord, where I believed there was confusion on the forum. Speaking from a pragmatic step here, as Minister of Communications, being able to contact my staff of writers and ping them allows me to know they got my message, where I'm never sure if someone will receive a notification on the forum. I'm able to find answers from my staff much more quickly and in real time than I feel the forum offers.
There's another part of the Discord atmosphere that, however one views it, is definitely true: much more social chatter happens there. Perhaps (and most definitely perhaps, if you catch me) it is the instant aspect of Discord that allows such social interaction to flower. The ability to react in real time to the course of the conversation is one that really enhances the social aspect. It breeds friendships and discourse and allows for topics to shift on a dime, something much more akin to real group dynamics. This is something that fora, in general, have a difficult time recreating.
I've already said that Discord's social aspects, the instant chatter, breed friendships. But they can also breed enemies. It's been mentioned that Discord's instant messaging allows for things to get wildly off-topic. In certain environments, this can allow for a comment taken in the wrong way to completely derail an entire conversation into a spiral of dejected comments and snide remarks. And these remarks can cause a deep misunderstanding to deepen further to a lasting distrust or even hate between people. This sort of 'spite catalysis,' as I'd call it, is an aspect of Discord that has been brought up before in response to a special first minister post.
There's also a consideration for the ease of topic shifting to be in Discord's disfavor. In a forum, it is fairly easy to stay on-topic; in fact, oftentimes, it's a bit of an uphill battle to change the course of a conversation. The nature of a forum is one that is 'stop-motion,' subject to discrete units of time before any feedback is registered. One is given more time to consider a response before posting. Posts themselves are less easily lost, as there isn't a constantly scrolling chatlog replacing older messages. Because of these myriad reasons, a forum allows for a relatively structured and maintained topic throughout. As a politically-minded region, Europeia has great use for this. The ability to discuss a topic without too many unnecessary tangents is vital to political discourse. Without that stability and rigidity, it would be much harder to maintain a fairly logical stepwise discussion toward some sort of resolution. (See: Discord's #eurochat and #debate-and-politics, which both tend to reel from one topic to the next.)
Although, in Discord's favor, all of the digital 'facetime' I mentioned before does have another aspect -- as far as I've noticed -- that perhaps the forum can't give as readily: visibility of members in the group. On fora, it can get a little segmented, and it is fairly difficult for someone new to gain any of that visibility that is necessary to gain office. Discord, by its nature, has a main hub where people can gather and talk to each other instantly. A new citizen who walks into this hub can start talking immediately with established members, ask questions, make queries, and generally get their own foothold made. It looks like the ideal environment to get one's political persona fired up and forged.
This environment in Discord also has the added benefit -- again, because of its instant, central nature -- that those in the executive or legislative branches are more prominent to the citizens that have voted for them (for those positions that are, indeed, voted on). As a person in this position, it's helpful to be able to answer your 'constituents,' if you will, and it's nice as a newcomer to be able to talk in such an open way with those personable members of the government. As a member of the government, this is a great thing. More open, casual dialogue with the citizenry helps to establish your presence, giving you a feeling that you are personable, which is helpful in elections (aside from the ability to run a successful term).
However, the more casual atmosphere may also be one of its detractions. There is something to be said about so-called 'social players' in the realm of Discord (pun unintended), which may be 'tainting' the political landscape with their mixing of in-character (IC) and out-of-character (OOC) to create identities which are more easily personally offended by mistaken comments. As Supreme Chancellor Lethen said in First Minister Lloenflys' post, it is possible that "players that are more focused on the social aspects of Europeia are more inclined to take things personally and exacerbate perceived slights that would be seen as fair play to 'political' players in Europeia." Combine this with the presence of some players that do blur the IC and OOC, when things do take a turn down the personal, it becomes a quick spiral, where people who meant only to make a point are perceived as personally attacking, and then can't seem to pull out of the dive. I am uncertain how this would be best managed.
Finally, there exists the thought that interactions on Discord pull from interaction on the forum. I haven't been in Europeia long enough to judge that to be true. But it doesn't feel like it to me. I mean, sure, there are some sections on the forum that seem a bit eclipsed and made redundant by the existence of the Discord server; perhaps that serves as a sign that the latter works. And I think that serves as evidence toward the idea that the Discord and the forum can work together, even if that means part of the forum is made redundant. I think perhaps what would have happened for me if the Discord server didn't exist is that I wouldn't visit the forum as much, so I would argue that Discord doesn't pull from the forum. If anything, it supplements it.
I think that Discord should be kept as advertised as it is. I was told in the RMB that it was highly recommended to join, and I couldn't have achieved the level of success I currently have without it, I believe. It was the quickest way for me to get oriented, find friends, and get going on my way within Europeia. Quicker, I think, than being on the forum alone would have offered me. The interactivity is its strength. Even the reactions, however dumb or stupid they appear, are cute and funny in their own way. I doubt anyone is getting rid of the server, but I wanted to make it known that the Discord is very helpful, despite some of its flaws.