Mishra, Meghna

May 26, 2021

Question 2: Are some types of knowledge more useful than others?

Object 1: Chemistry notebook

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This notebook was initially purchased to be used as a chemistry notebook until I dropped the subject, and used it instead as a sketchbook, in order to keep track of my progress as an artist and release stress. The book is filled with notes, formulas and multiple calculations related to chemistry, as well as 7 drawings and 5 smaller sketches; meaning that this book holds a large amount of knowledge, both in chemistry and art.

When reading through the notebook, it can be seen that there is an equal amount of art and chemistry; an equal amount of pages have been given to both. However, one may argue that the information provided in the chemistry notes is more ‘important’ than the knowledge displayed with the art, because maths and science are considered to core areas of knowledge; they are held in high regard because of the idea of ‘accuracy.’ In both fields, there is a lot of emphasis put on having a ‘correct answer’ or ‘correct outcome,’ with a lot of stress put on repeated, accurate testing methodology to ensure that results are both precise and accurate.

As well as this, the information provided through the chemistry notes and calculations are not personal in any shape of form; they are simply numbers in a forgotten calculation. The information that the art displays, however, is extremely personal to me, the artist; it maps out progress in a way that calculations could never fully express. The art also helps to show the individuality of each piece, and each piece has some sort of motive behind it; it may have been the result of stress, inspiration from another stimulus, or simply for practice.

Both areas of knowledge are useful, but in contrasting ways.

Object 2: A text

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This photo is a screenshot of an exchange over text with a close friend, where I accidentally asked her in Hindi, ‘Did you finish the work?’ Her reaction is one of confusion, since she does not speak the language. This showcases both the language barrier, as well as her initial judgement of the foreign script. The fact that this object is also a screenshot of a somewhat typical text conversation allows us to explore the unconscious bias that people have about certain languages.

English is one of the most widely spoken languages in the world today, and as a result majority of people speak English, leading to the widespread belief that English as a language is superior to others. As a result, many people are satisfied with English being the only language they speak; in this case, my friend’s negative reaction, calling the script ‘jiggly squiggles’ reflects both her ignorance of the language as well as the opinion she has been conditioned to have of foreign languages, resulting in the negative connotations of the comment. The fact that this object is a screenshot of a text conversation also reflects how this bias can reflect in our everyday lives and actions, be it in comments we make or our initial reactions to seeing a foreign language.

As a result of this, one may argue that English would be a more useful language to know how to speak, since it is the most widely spoken language in the world, and most people have a positive attitude towards it, and there is less judgement surrounding it than other languages. On the other hand, It can also be said that knowing how to speak Hindi gives me an advantage over my friend here; I have access to all of the knowledge in this conversation, meaning that I know the full context, whereas the knowledge that she access to is limited to whatever is written in English. Both languages are useful, and learning each one comes with its own benefits, but there is no true way to say whether one is better than the other since there are too many factors that can affect this.

Object 3: A book

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The third is my personal copy of the book ‘sing at sight’ by William Appleby. While it was a book I had been asked to purchase with the intention of starting out in sight singing as a beginner, the book does not actually contain any instructions or tips about improving on the skill; instead, it has a selection of exercises that the user has to practice in order to build on their ability to sight-sing, making it an interesting object to look into, since there is already the assumption that the student using the book has basic knowledge in sight-singing.

The knowledge of the skill of sight singing is useful since it allows for the singer to learn a piece of repertoire just by reading through the score once, rather than having to listen and practice it a lot just to get a basic understanding of the piece.
However, this does not mean that singing at sight is the most effective method to learn a piece; a lot more external factors can affect a singer’s vocal performance, and everyone has a different way of learning a piece.

Ultimately, while sight-singing is definitely a very convenient skill to have, it cannot be said with absolute certainty that the knowledge gained from that method is more useful than the knowledge gained from other methods, purely because of how many factors effect a vocalist’s performance.

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