Conveying knowledge in symbols (something that represents something else such as the word “tree” means a being with a trunk, branches, and some type of leaves) rather than icons, (where a small drawing of a tree is relied on to represent the tree) and the oral tradition, makes communication more difficult. This is why I and many others opt to use emoticons (a form of icon) in our textual communications as they are useful at conveying meaning in terms of tone.
That said, the oral tradition is more effective at assuring the intended knowledge is being conveyed. I am certain this is one reason why Indigenous people of Turtle Island held the oral tradition at the center of their communication process where their system of symbolic literacy which include smoke signals, birch bark scrolls, petroglyphs, petrographs, petroforms, star knowledge, and wampum belts was/is more peripheral.
I see a lot of misunderstanding on facebook, and for that matter emails, resulting in unnecessary nastiness. Often times the misunderstanding has to do with cross-cultural differences in the meaning ascribed to words. More often than not, though, the misunderstanding comes about due to the different meanings people ascribe to a word. For example, the word “organic” to a chemist means something different than it does for a farmer.
Small conceptual spaces encoded in words and text require precise interpretation to understand the large room of thought contained.
Given this time of social media we need to be more mindful about the fact that textual communication while valuable has much larger limitations and thus more opportunities for misunderstanding. In short, communication online can be too easily riddled with misunderstandings. It may be useful for people to understand that excessive use of capital letters and exclamation points cause people to ascribe negative meaning more easily to words and sentences. As such, it may be best to use them less frequently, if at all.
Generally, I will delete people who use capital letters and exclamation points to convey knowledge. As for sarcasm, I try my best to avoid this style of communication and I will delete people who too frequently communicate through this mode. I simply do not like it. Communication through symbols rather than through icons and the oral tradition is difficult enough. The same goes with racists, sexists, ableists, and people tossing around lateral violence. In situations where I suspect this is the case I ask for clarity of meaning and if I determine they are doing this I delete them. I don’t need to be battling on facebook.
I also see people getting frustrated with other people who use social media in their own way. We need to understand that people are allowed to do what they want with social media. The process is subjective and we have no right to be critical.
All this said, there are also equity issues that must be considered. For example, some people with vision disabilities find scrolling and flipping screens too hard and so they opt not to travel around and comment on as many posts as they would like. While they may do it − the point is, it is their subjectivity that will guide their choices, not yours. This is particularly true for the almost blind people. That said if you can’t appreciate equity in practice − you may want to unfriend me. I hope you don’t.
If you find yourself deleted because I prefer not to deal with racism, sexism, ableism, and lateral violence, oh well, we are all entitled to our own process of become better people, myself included. :)
Lynn Gehl is an Algonquin Anishinaabe-kwe from the Ottawa River Valley. She has a section 15 Charter and section 35 Constitutional challenge regarding the continued sex discrimination in The Indian Act, is an outspoken critic of the Ontario Algonquin land claims and self-government process, and she recently published a book titled Anishinaabeg Stories: Featuring Petroglyphs, Petrographs, and Wampum Belts. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org and see more of her work at www.lynngehl.com.
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