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Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Overton window

Overton window - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: "The Overton window is a concept in political theory, named after its originator, Joe Overton, former vice president of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. It describes a 'window' in the range of public reactions to ideas in public discourse, in a spectrum of all possible options on an issue. Overton described a method for moving that window, thereby including previously excluded ideas, while excluding previously acceptable ideas. The technique relies on people promoting ideas even less acceptable than the previous 'outer fringe' ideas. That makes those old fringe ideas look less extreme, and thereby acceptable. The idea is that priming the public with fringe ideas intended to be and remain unacceptable, will make the real target ideas seem more acceptable by comparison."

Comments:
It's the hit 'em and spit on 'em concept. Originally proposed to me as a teenager so bear that in mind. If you were to hit your parents, in a violent way, you'd be grounded/punished etc etc. However, if you were to first spit on them, be punished for that then hit them, the hitting would seem less extreme and therefore become less of a punishment if any at all. They may say "well at least he isn't spitting on me..."

Pushing the boundaries in anything works the same way. At least it's nice to know they've codified it an can refer to this phenomenon.

Good stuff.
 
Heh, I don't know if you did it on purpose but I think it's rather amusing that you posted about the Overton window right before posting about the SVG-in-HTML discussion.

Standards strategy is a lot about moving the Overton window, and there would be a rather interesting case study to make about precisely this discussion, if one were to go back a few years and trace through all the different takes there have been on this issue.
 
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