May 26, 2021
10. What challenges are raised by the dissemination and/or communication of knowledge?
Object 1: Tweet made by former president Trump
This tweet was written by former president Trump during the US 2020 presidential election, and it has been flagged as misleading by twitter, as official sources had not yet called the race. The tweet states, “I HAVE WON THIS ELECTION, BY A LOT!” At the time this was tweeted, Donald Trump had almost 90,000,000 followers who potentially saw this factually incorrect tweet, which proves one challenge raised by the dissemination and/or communication of knowledge – fake news.
This tweet is particularly interesting for this exhibition because one challenge raised by the communication of knowledge, particularly on the internet, is the phenomenon of echo chambers. An echo chamber is an environment where similar beliefs are amplified and reinforced by communication, and alternative opinions are not considered. Seeing as Trump is a considerably right-wing politician, this means the majority of his followers are also right-wing, and frequently encounter similar beliefs reinforced on their social media, thanks to their respective echo chambers. This tweet enriches this exhibition because it is a perfect example of why echo chambers can be dangerous, and why they are a challenge in the dissemination of knowledge. This is because if someone following Trump on Twitter sees this tweet, they are more likely to be misled if everyone else on their feed is agreeing with it.
The real world context is beliefs expressed on social media cannot exist in a vacuum. If someone is left-wing and exposed to liberal views on social media, they will most likely become more liberal in the real world, because we see online influences us in person. This how political views can be influenced via social media, and why Trump tweeting misinformation to 90 million people is particularly dangerous. This tweet shows the dangerous nature of fake news and the real world consequences it has, as well as how fake news is a challenge raised by the communication of knowledge.
Object 2: The Emily Wilson translation of the Odyssey
This is the Emily Wilson translation of the Odyssey, the first copy of the Odyssey translated by a woman. The task of a translator is to interpret the words of a text in an unbiased way, however in almost fifty different transtations of the Odyssey translated by men, there appears sexist language which is not present in the original text. Wilson’s copy is among the first to discard the sexist language used to describe female characters brought to the Odyssey not by the author/s, but the translators. This proves that personal prejudice and bias is a challenge reissued by the dissemination and/or communication of knowledge.
This specific copy of the Odyssey is especially interesting for the exhibition because it shows that the act of communicating knowledge brings human biases and prejudices, which affect knowledge. The men who translated the text before Wilson used explicity derogatory and sexist language to describe the female slaves, referring to them as ‘whores,’ or ‘creatures,’ both terms which have negative misogynistic connotations. Wilson chose the word ‘girls,’ instead, as the term used in the original text is ‘female ones,’ and contextually has no derogatory intent. This is a clear example of how prejudice affects judgement and knowledge, and how knowledge of a work of literature can be skewed due to prejudiced intent, which in turn leads to miscommunication of knowledge.
This text enriches the exhibition because it demonstrates how personal biases impact the communication of knowledge, since translation is impossible without interpretation. As a translator, it is impossible to be completely objective when translating a word with many meanings. For example, this text contains the word ‘polytropos,’ an ambiguously translated word roughly meaning ‘many-turned,’ or ‘turns many.’1 While Wilson’s predessecors interpreted ‘polytropos,’ as ‘cunning,’ ‘ingenious,’ or ‘crafty,’ to name a few, Wilson aimed to be as direct and true to the text as possible, instead interpreting polytropos as ‘complicated.’ This is evidence of how personal choices significantly influence the meaning of a text, and the lack of an objective truth leads to biases and prejudices affecting the communication of knowledge.
Object 3: Spanish to English dictionary
This is the Spanish to English dictionary I have used since grade six to translate words in Spanish class. While some words in Spanish have multiple translations, some have none at all, which makes the communication of knowledge in this context especially challenging.
There are so many variations of the Spanish language in different Latin American countries, that a word translated from English to Spanish may have different meanings among different Spanish speaking people. For example, the word ‘zapato,’ means ‘shoe,’ in Spain, but means ‘stupid,’ in Argentina, ‘Ugly,’ in Colombia, and ‘foul mouthed,’ in Costa Rica. This dictionary shows how challenging it can be to communicate knowledge when certain words, even within the same language, have such varying translations. The real world context of this dictionary is that words having multiple meanings when translated can lead to miscommunication, and impact the communication of knowledge.
This dictionary is especially interesting for the exhibition because some words and phrases have no direct translation, which raises the question of how we communicate despite this, and how we understand each other. Even when a word has no direct translation, translators adapt, and use synonyms or other words and phrases to communicate. This dictionary therefore enriches the exhibition because it is a real world example of the gap between language and meaning. Because Latin America is a vast continent and a melting pot of cultures, there are bound to be variations in language that make is harder to communicate. This dictionary is evidence of challenges raised by the communication of knowledge.
Image for source 1: Wikipedia. 2020. “File:Trump tweet – I won this election.png” Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Trump_tweet_-_I_won_this_election.png
Mason, Wyatt. November 2 2017. “The First Woman to Translate the ‘Odyssey’ Into English. The New York Times Magazine. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/02/magazine/ the-first-woman-to-translate-the-odyssey-into-english.html
ILS. 2018. “Untranslatable Words – What Haopens When There’s No Word for That?” ILS. https://www.ilstranslations.com/blog/untranslatable-words/