May 26, 2021
10. What challenges are raised by the dissemination and/or communication of knowledge?
Object 1: Tweet by @poisoncookie00
A Japanese Twitter user @poisoncookie00 posted a screenshot of Line chat with her friend Takashi. Takashi says “The moon is pretty”—a phrase originally used by a poet Natsume Soseki when he translated the English phrase ‘I love you.’ In Japanese society where reserved expressions are appreciated, the phrase describing the moon’s beauty quickly developed into a romantic idiom used to confess love. Takashi keeps repeating this phrase to the author, but she doesn’t realize the meaning until Takashi sends her a screenshot of Google search results about the phrase.
This tweet shows how the difference in perspectives may hinder communication of knowledge between two individuals. The author’s lack of background knowledge about the metaphor prevents Takashi from effectively conveying his feelings for her. Takashi initially assumed that she shares the same knowledge as him and decided to confess his love to her with the metaphorical phrase. However, she simply perceives his words as a description of the moon, rather than a poetic confession. Here, the same expression is interpreted differently for two people, because of their different perspectives and prior knowledge on the phrase: Takashi looks at its cultural context while the Twitter user focuses on the literal meaning. This reveals the challenge raised by communication of knowledge: when hindered by lack of shared perspectives, communication of knowledge that uses implicit expression may create misunderstanding and distort the true message.
The object is also significant in that it was posted on Twitter and received a lot of attention—evident in the number of likes (14.7k). The fact that she voluntarily shares her private conversation with Takashi on a public platform suggests that she doesn’t take his confession seriously. The caption even mocks Takashi for using a “pretentious” metaphor. This, again, distorts the pure intention of Takashi who attempted to carefully convey his feelings, acting as another challenge to Takashi’s mode of communication.
Object 2: YouTube Comments on the Music Video of “Champion”
“Champion” is a song by a South Korean musician PSY. The chorus of “Champion” includes a repetitive use of a Korean phrase ‘nee-gah’ which means ‘you are.’ However, the phrase sounds different in English because of its similarity to the n-word—a term popularized by white Americans in the past which they used to degrade African Americans. African Americans have reclaimed the word to change the meaning; though, it is still offensive if a member of other racial communities uses the word.
User Drifterz_24 argues that PSY is a racist, as the singer deliberately uses ‘nee-gah’ instead of ‘nae-gah’ to indirectly use the n-word. Bunny_Bunny_Bunny offers a rebuttal, saying ‘nee-gah’ is simply a colloquial way of saying ‘you are’ in Korean that developed with no relation to Western culture. This exchange between two users reveals a challenge raised by communication in the digital world: false knowledge is easily created and rapidly disseminated. One user’s action (Drifterz_24’s comment) was enough to make incorrect information (that PSY forcibly altered his pronunciation to purposefully offend African Americans) easily accessible to anyone on Youtube. Although Drifterz_24’s claim was disproven by Bunny_Bunny_Bunny, the incorrect information inevitably affects other users, given its accessibility.
Right below, Borris_Dorris says, “Rasist?” implying the user hasn’t read Bunny_Bunny_Bunny’s comment. This epitomizes unproductive discussions that frequently occur on the internet: people give their opinions without proper research and ignore others’. In this case, Borris_Dorris neglects Bunny_Bunny_Bunny’s account and contributes to the dissemination of inaccurate knowledge that PSY is a racist. Furthermore, there is hardly any useful knowledge being communicated in the thread, except for Bunny_Bunny_Bunny’s comment. Other comments are either untrue or don’t convey any meaning. This again shows there is a nonintellectual discussion going on. The fact that the internet provides everyone with the equal ability to share their thoughts can be beneficial in that people from different backgrounds can easily interact with each other. However, it also raises challenges like creation of false knowledge and unproductive discussions.
Object 3: Rep. Greene speaking at the US Capitol
Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene is a US congresswoman in the Republican Party. Object 3 shows her speaking about the former President Trump’s impeachment while wearing a mask, the word “censored” printed on it.
This object shows how communication of certain knowledge may hurt one’s credibility and ultimately hinder their future attempt to convey other ideas. There is a dichotomy between her argument (that she is censored) and the reality; she claims she is “censored,” while her speech is broadcasted to the public without any censorship. This irony reveals to the audience that she does not recognize her privilege to be heard and represented: it causes the audience to perceive her as unobservant and irrational, for considering herself to be censored. Communication of inaccurate knowledge (Greene’s claim) raises a challenge for the communicator herself—reduced credibility. Due to her action, the public may consider her unreliable, and question the accuracy of other information she communicates, such as her speech.
Lower credibility may also lead the audience to question her authority as a Representative, and this could possibly lead to reduced support towards her and the Republican Party. However, as people with political beliefs tend to be biased in favor of the party that they support, Republicans (who support Greene) may be less wary of potential mistakes or fallacies in Greene’s logic. This causes Republicans to be less likely to notice the irony in the first place, compared to Democrats or moderates (who don’t support Greene). This is especially true in the US where political partisanship is extremely strong. Since Greene’s supporters may overlook the fallacies in her claim, her false argument regarding censorship may not necessarily lead to reduced support. This is another challenge, as it illustrates how identifying fallacies may be particularly difficult for people with biases: an inaccurate claim like Greene’s may be accepted with no critical evaluation.