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An Interview with Monika Orski (Part Five)


Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2018/10/01


Monika Orski is the Ordförande/Chairman, Mensa Sverige/Mensa Sweden. She discusses: the work of Mensa Sweden; announcement and organization of an event; electronic media; ground rules in online fora; tips for women and girls online; online moderators; in-person versus online interactions of Mensa Sweden members; similar interactions online and in-person; expansions of Mensa Sweden’s in-person provisions; technology and online environments to improve Mensa Sweden experiences; and in-person experiences to improve online environments.

Keywords: chairman, Mensa Sverige, Mensa Sweden, Monika Orski, Ordförande.

An Interview with Monika Orski: Ordförande/Chairman, Mensa Sverige/Mensa Sweden (Part Five)[1],[2]

*Please see the footnotes, bibliography, and citation style listing after the interview.*

1. Scott Douglas Jacobsen: I want to explore the world of possibilities more for Mensa Sweden. On the one side, the world of electronic media. On the other side, the interactions in-person of Mensa Sweden members. Then, of course, the ways in which electronic community can facilitate and enhance in-person interaction and vice versa. Let’s work in the order presented: for the electronic media, the ability to organize meetups, have fora for discussions and debates, and even vote on important matters of Mensa Sweden governance and policy – at least, potentially – become easier. Does this reflect the work of Mensa Sweden – with examples in relevant domains, please?

Monika Orski: It does, in some ways. We have electronic communications as well as in-person communications. I like to refer to the electronic communications as virtual meetings, to mark that there are both similarities and differences compared to in-person, physical meetings.

We do not use any electronic voting systems, as least not yet. Some other national Mensas do, but decisions by our membership are made at a yearly general meeting, with the possibility of postal ballot for those who do not attend in person. But practically all social interactions and communications within the organization have both electronic and physical sides to them.

2. Jacobsen: How long is the standard time frame given in the announcement and organization of an event or meeting prior to its coming to fruition?

Orski: Depends on the meeting. Our Annual Gathering (AG) is usually decided on and announced two years in advance. The organizers need time to prepare for a four-day event with 500-600 participants. On the other hand, some small, local meetings are announced only days before the actual meeting.

Some local meetings are recurring. For example, in Stockholm, mensans meet at a restaurant on the first Tuesday of every month. We have done so for more than 25 years, and will probably continue to do so as long as the place stays open. This meeting can be considered announced for a long time to come, but the occurrences are usually put into our events calender at the beginning of each year, for the next 12 months.

3. Jacobsen: How can vigorous, respectful debates on various political, philosophical, mathematical, ethical, scientific, and so on, happen more easily through electronic media? I ask because, I know, most people, or everybody, experiences – or has experienced – intense and unpleasant debates, or even simply sour dialogues and discussions, on a number of topics.

Orski: I wish I knew. Unfortunately, electronic communication channels seem to bring out the worst in people. They also tend to be dominated by the few who are very loud and have too much time on their hands. Facebook and Twitter are extreme examples, where obtrusive aggressive behaviour is clearly rewarded, but the basic problems tend to surface sooner or later even on well-handled fora and mailing lists.

There are, however, some counter actions. Groups of people who want a debate that is actual debate, not a hate fest, come together to step in and politely try to turn discussions into real exchange of ideas, with positive feedback to those who show normal, respectful human behaviour. It is hard, but the people who do this help all of us keep some faith in humanity

I do think it is possible to have an electronic forum where respectful debates are possible. It does take some work, and I think the key is to establish clear boundaries early on. Such a forum needs to be moderated, and the ground rules need to be clear, but it is also important to set the level of what is considered normal within that context. When someone steps out of line, it should be clear to everyone that this is not accepted, regardless of whether the moderator is there to immediately deal with the problem.

4. Jacobsen: What seems like reasonable ground rules to set in an online forum to prevent vitriol and maintain respectful communication between the parties involved in them, especially in the cognitively highly capable?

Orski: In my experience, it is important to set ground rules that are generic rather than detailed. A code of conduct, rather than very specific rules. Detailed rules will always trigger some troll to find the equivalent of waving his hand two centimeter from your face while triumphantly shouting “but I’m not touching you”.

The rules should always include that participants need to stay polite, that no ad hominem is allowed, and a general rule that trolling is not allowed. Depending on the context, they might also include rules on what topics are allowed in the specific forum, and that all posts and comments should stay on topic.

Last but not least, a very important ground rule to communicate is ”do not give the moderators a headache”. You are free to think a moderator is wrong, but not to question that the moderator’s ruling is the law of the forum. The referee is the sole judge of the game, and the moderator is the referee of the forum.

5. Jacobsen: In online environments, women and girls get more harassment. Indeed, they receive more harsh criticism and ad hominem attacks, even if their statements remain, functionally in content and tone, the same as a man or a boy – not in all cases but, from qualitative reportage and complaints of women, probably most cases. Any tips for women and girls, especially the highly gifted and talented to stay on topic, in self-protection of cyberbullying, stalking, and harassment?

Orski: Do report harassment. Do report threats. Do report the hate stalkers, or of course all stalkers.

Unfortunately, the legal system tends to ignore those reports. I know very well that reporting threats to the police usually results in a formal answer that they have no way of finding the culprit, even when you provide details that in fact make it very easy to find them. But still, do file the reports. Don’t let the quantity of these threats and harassments go unnoticed by not being in the statistics of reported crime.

My second tip is to talk about it. It’s often hard to do so, but do talk about it. You will be reminded that you are not alone. And it might sound simplistic, but to see the harassing messages outnumbered by even very simple tokens of sympathy usually helps keep your spirit up.

And then, of course, for the cases that are not threats and harassment but simply stupid and often sexist digs, there is the more general tip to remember you are under no obligation to educate any random pundit. If there is no mutual respect, there is no real discussion. Don’t waste your time, you have better things to do. Just leave the trolls to keep throwing mud at each other.

6. Jacobsen: What is the importance of an online moderator in the prevention of these behaviors by many men and boys – or some women and girls? What seems like the appropriate punishments, reactions, or mechanisms to acquire justice in the cases of legitimate cyberbullying, stalking, and harassment? That is, how can the bullied, stalked, and harassed deal with these individuals?

Orski: First and foremost: It is not the job of those bullied, stalked and harassed to deal with the people who abuse them. It is not the obligation of the victim of a crime to administer justice. Everyone, and especially anyone in any kind of leadership position, needs to be clear that it is not up to the victim to change the behaviour of the perpetrator, or to talk to them, or whatever.

Thus, I would say that the importance of online moderators must be clearly stated. If you run a forum, it is your duty to handle those who cannot behave as civilized human beings within the rules stated for that forum, and to remove them from the forum if they will not change their ways. This goes for any forum, be it a mailing list or a Facebook group.

Of course, in theory, the owners of platforms such as Twitter or Facebook should also be held accountable. But the way things work today, we know that does not happen.

7. Jacobsen: Now, to the second aspect, the in-person environment has been the main form of interaction of the highly intelligent in a relatively tight locale. What are some interactions Mensa Sweden members can get in-person but not online?

Orski: In-person interactions are always different to online interactions. That goes for groups as well as individuals. In today’s world, most of us have people we care for but live to far from to see very often, and while online chats and emails certainly help keep those bonds alive, we are always happy to see them and be able to just sit down together to talk. In a slightly diluted form, this goes for group interactions too.

On a less general note, some things need to be done in person. To listen to a lecture online is not the same as to be in the room and able to interact with the lecturer. Online gaming is different from sitting down to a board game. Board games are popular with many mensans, which makes it a good example.

8. Jacobsen: What about similar interactions online as in person but the interactions are simply better, richer experiences for the participants than online?

As mentioned, to sit down together to talk is different from exchanging messages online. In the context of Mensa meetings, or of any larger group, there is also the fact that some people have lots of time on their hands and therefore tend to spend a lot of time in online fora. I don’t mean the trolls now, but people with perfectly normal online behaviour who simply take up a lot of the discussion bandwidth because they are interested and have the time to do so. At an in-person meeting, they will not dominate the discourse in the same way, as discussions tend to take place in smaller groups. This also gives more room for those who tend to talk less.

9. Jacobsen: In the future, what would be wonderful expansions of Mensa Sweden’s in-person provisions for the membership? I mean wildest dreams, wonderful, and dreamy ideas – pie-in-the-sky.

Orski: I think I’m more of a pragmatic, practical Mensa leader than a dreaming visionary. Both kinds are needed, but I’m probably not a very good person to ask for the pie-in-the-sky ideas.

However, I can try. The educational needs of the highly gifted are not very well served today, as we have discussed at length. It would be wonderful to provide a Mensa university, with courses ranging from the level that would help school age children stay interested in education to very advanced post-graduate level courses for those who want to widen the horizons of their everyday work. All free and adapted to the learning pace of the highly intelligent.

Also, there are mensans who discuss plans of common holiday homes. Others dream of some kind of permanent version of the annual gatherings, with lectures and games and common dinners, and most importantly always lots of mensans around to talk to. Some even talk of retirement homes, especially for mensans. It would be a dream idea to provide some sort of complex with all these things, a kind of real life community that members could visit anytime, or even make their permanent home.

10. Jacobsen: To the third facet, the nature of the interaction between the two. How do technology and online environments improve in-person experiences of the Mensa Sweden group?

Orski: Some people come to the in-person meetings only after a time in online groups. They often have a feeling of not being totally new to the environment, and being already acquainted with some other members. Thus, it can help more members actually join the in-person interactions.

Online interactions also help keep up contacts between members in different local groups, and for that matter in different countries. If you meet once a year at a large gathering, it’s good to have some interaction in online groups in-between those events.

Jacobsen: How do in-person experiences provide the basis for enhanced experiences in the virtual environments of the Mensa Sweden group?

Orski: It’s always easier to have good online interactions once you have met the people you interact with. The other side of online interactions reinforcing the contacts made at gatherings, is that meeting up at a gathering will enhance the mutual understanding and discussion climate of online communications.


  1. Mensa International. (2018). Mensa Sweden. Retrieved from
  2. Mensa Sverige. (2018). Mensa Sverige. Retrieved from

Appendix I: Footnotes

[1] Ordförande/Chairman, Mensa Sverige/Mensa Sweden.

[2] Individual Publication Date: October 1, 2018:; Full Issue Publication Date: January 1, 2019:


In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at


© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

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