Boardman, Thalia

May 26, 2021

10. What challenges are raised by the dissemination and/or communication of knowledge?

Object 1: Khamenei.ir Twitter

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This is a tweet by the Iranian ‘Supreme Leader’, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, appealing to international audiences for sanction removal, regardless of whether the US returns to the JCPOA and the 2015 Iran Nuclear deal. The post presents interesting issues with the way information and knowledge are delivered throughout the internet, the access to which is, according to the UN, a basic human right.

The internet age presents significant challenges, such as censorship. Iran only allows a national in- tranet, officially labelled the National Information Network, and yet its leaders use Twitter, which is banned domestically, to deliver propaganda. Some argue that Twitter should consider not allowing such postings or such leaders to have accounts.

This object enriches the exhibition because it shows how different mediums are used to suite partic- ular objectives. The use of a specific language is strategic – English helps the dissemination of information internationally and indicates that the object is not for domestic consumption. Using Eng- lish can nevertheless lead to inequality since it cuts out a large portion of the world’s population. This post bring up interesting issues such as knowledge and technology and the relationship be- tween them.

Iranian leaders may understand that, to reach the largest audience, they must broadcast to different cultural and linguistic groups. However, because different languages have inherent rules of gram- mar and speech, they often communicate in awkward ways, for example the sentence that starts 2“That which is our logical demand…”.

Khamenei is often listed among the world’s top opponents of the Internet yet was one of Iran’s first officials to join Twitter and maintains accounts in several languages, including in English, Farsi and Spanish. 4His team regularly post statements, pictures and infographics, to disseminate information. This object showcases their expedient ‘inconsistency’: restricting freedoms at home and yet using the internet for propaganda. This is a clear limitation to the dissemination of knowledge and the understanding of world issues.

Object 2: American Dirt

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This book is a fictional novel called American Dirt which has been the subject of controversy since publication in 2019. The novel tells the story of the journey of a Mexican mother and her children to the border of the US after a drug cartel murders the rest of their family.

This novel can be problematic since the story is fictional even though there are millions who have been forced to migrate and have gone through this experience in real life. Moreover, many have questioned whether Jeanine Cummins has the right perspective and information to be able to write and communicate on this subject.

This object enriches this exhibition because it raises the issue of whether people who have not gone through such violent traumas are able to effectively communicate the experience of those who have.

The author does not give any indication of having personally experienced such events or of having interviewed or shared information with anyone who has. Therefore, she could be disseminating knowledge that she may not even have which in turn affects the reliability of her novel.

The object further enriches the exhibition because the knowledge communication should be repre- sented in clearer ways. The novel is written in the perspective of the Mexican mother talking about her feeling during her migration to America. However, when the book’s protagonist is communicat- ing with readers, her language, her thought processes, her beliefs are more akin to those of an American than a Mexican woman. Since the author is American when she writes she has an Ameri- can mindset and perspective.

However, American Dirt is targeting American readers and therefore telling this migrant story in an American ‘voice’ may enhance the ability of the audience to connect and understand the narrative. This perspective helps the dissemination of information since it becomes easier to communicate specific ideas and forms of knowledge that might be understandable to the audience.

Object 3: Times News Briefing

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The third object is a news briefing podcast by The Times called The Times News Briefing (Wednes- day, the 14th of April). This object enriches the exhibition because it is of a different medium and it takes a journalistic perspective, seeking to provide a 2-3 minute news summary, covering current affairs, politics, domestic and international news.

The Times, a major UK newspaper, takes a “particularly detached” stance towards reporting. This podcast has limited analysis – not all knowledge is provided, just the facts. Moreover, when ana- lysis is provided, it is by third parties via short interviews, for example, an epidemiologist from Cambridge University comments on vaccine safety.

This is not a typical podcast since it is providing headlines with a description of a few sentences. A more common podcast would include a conversation, often with an exchange of opinions. Three minutes may appear inadequate to communicate the news but there may be a variety of factors why this length has been chosen, for example the desire to attract maximum listeners and convince them subscribe to The Times.

It is a challenge to decide what to communicate in such a short period of time. The variety of the subjects covered indicates that the target audience is upper middle class, educated and probably with a higher-than-average wealth, in line with The Times readership, although possibly not of the same age group.

One further challenge is the use of language to disseminate knowledge. It can be difficult, regard- less of trustworthiness or political agenda to effectively disseminate and communicate knowledge, information and (ideally) educate in an impartial way. The podcast states that “Senior civil servants are being allowed to work … under an arrangement authorised by the cabinet office.” The tone of this headline is neutral; the words “are being allowed” and “authorised” are carefully chosen pos- sibly reflecting government language. The subject is sensitive and can influence political views.

Bibliography

  • –  “Times News Briefing.” The Times and The Sunday Times. Accessed April 14, 2021. https://

    www.thetimes.co.uk/podcasts/times-news-briefing.

  • –  Cummins, Jeanine. American Dirt. Paris: Philippe Rey, 2020.
  • –  Khamenei.ir. “We Don’t Insist the US Return to the #JCPOA. This Is Not the Issue for Us at All Whether the US Returns to the JCPOA or Not. That Which Is Our Logical Demand Is the Remov- al of Sanctions, and That Is the Only Way That the US’s Return to the JCPOA Would Make Sense.” Twitter. January 15, 2021. Accessed February 8, 2021. https://twitter.com/khamenei_ir/ status/1350154791599673351?lang=en.
  • –  Esfandiari, Golnaz. “Iranian Politicians Who Use Twitter Despite State Ban.” RadioFreeEurope/ RadioLiberty. August 28, 2017. Accessed February 11, 2021. https://www.rferl.org/a/iranian- politicians-twitter-ban/28701701.html.
  • –  Khamenei.ir. “The Situation in the US & What They Themselves Say about Their Elections Is a Spectacle! This Is an Example of the Ugly Face of Liberal Democracy in the US. Regardless of the Outcome, One Thing Is Absolutely Clear, the Definite Political, Civil, & Moral Decline of the US Regime.” Twitter. November 07, 2020. Accessed February 13, 2021. https://twitter.com/ khamenei_ir/status/1325138042047377408?lang=en.
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