Lotzsch Abarca, Angela

Angela Lotzsch Abarca responds to the question: What challenges are raised by the dissemination and/or communication of knowledge?

Object One: Tweet made by UberFacts in 2019

This tweet was published by UberFacts, an account that provides facts about random topics, in 2019, and it mentions the quote a jack of all trades is a master of none, but better than a master of one” and how, over time, it has been shorted and misquoted to “a jack of all trades is a master of none”, changing the meaning behind the statement initially made by John Gower.

This object is particularly interesting for this exhibition because when knowledge is only partially communicated, new meanings are constructed. This is a challenge because Gower meant to convey that being well-rounded and exploring multiple talents is better than being good at only one thing. His statement has a positive connotation. However, the shortened version of the quote that has recently gained attraction on social media platforms, like TikTok and Instagram, “a jack of all trades is a master of none” has a negative meaning, as it states that having a variety of skills is not useful in the real world.

The tweet enriches the exhibition as it demonstrates that when knowledge, such as this quote, is disseminated in written and oral form over time, changes can occur. This is a challenge as the receiver of the knowledge may not be aware of the initial intention behind the quote and only know the meaning of the newer shortened version. The forms in which knowledge is communicated is also problematic as online platforms are not required to reference the original quote or the primary source, John Gower. Therefore, when knowledge changes, whether this happens purposefully or unwillingly, its meaning and therefore, its impact on people can become increasingly negative.

Object Tw0: Screenshot of a German common saying and the corresponding translations in English provided by the LEO dictionary

This screenshot from the LEO dictionary, which is a German to English online dictionary, provides two similar English translations for the German common saying “jemanden einen Korb geben”, which means to “turn someone down” or “rebuff” them. I came across this German saying over Christmas at a family dinner, when my German father tried to translate “jemanden einen Korb geben” into English but realised that he did not know what its correct translation was.

This object is relevant to this exhibition because it demonstrates the difficulties that come with communicating knowledge using colloquial phrases since literal translations and the translation of the meaning are not the same. Word-for-word “jemanden einen Korb geben” would translate to ‘giving someone a basket’, whereas the English equivalent is to “turn someone down”. Due to the extreme difference in those translations, the dissemination of knowledge becomes more difficult. Being trilingual, this is a problem I often encounter when communicating in my second or third language. This example demonstrates how challenging bridging the gap between two languages can be, especially concerning colloquial speech, as literal translations are unable to convey the meaning of common sayings.

The screenshot further enriches the exhibition as it demonstrates how challenging it can be to correctly apply complex terms in other languages. It is easy for miscommunication of knowledge to occur when common sayings are translated from English to German. Common sayings challenge the communication of information, as its use is highly dependent on context and the formality of a conversation. Additionally, the LEO dictionary provides two versions of the English translation, demonstrating that the full meaning of colloquial sayings cannot be captured in one translation, and increasing the difficulty for non-English speakers to be able to correctly communicate “jemanden einen Korb geben” in the English language, as the use of the words in real life has to be considered.

Overall, the object proves that it can be challenging to communicate the meaning of one language through a translation in a second language, particularly if one has not lived in areas where said language is spoken or one does not have the expertise to distinguish between literal translations and the translation of meanings.

Object Three: Tweet made by former president Donald Trump concerning Covid-19

This tweet was written by the former president of the United States, Donald Trump, and it is controversial as he is claiming that he cannot get or give Covid, after his isolation period from his initial contraction of the virus was over. The tweet dates back to October 2020. At the time this was tweeted, Donald Trump had around 90 million followers who may have seen this and been subject to the dissemination and communication of misinformation.

This tweet is particularly interesting for this exhibition because one of the challenges raised by the communication of knowledge is that when politicians communicate information to their audience, it is often perceived as important. Due to Trump’s public relevance as the president of the United States, his followers and supporters are likely to see any knowledge communicated by him as the truth. This is problematic as Trump’s fame does not ensure that he is spreading accurate and useful information. Twitter’s addition of the warning about the post’s “misleading and potentially harmful information” shows the importance of fact-checking, especially when an elected politician with at one point 90 million Twitter followers, makes false claims about the coronavirus.

The tweet enriches the exhibition as it demonstrates how social media platforms contribute to the challenges of disseminating knowledge as a social media consumer. Twitter is a fast, global form of communication, where posts can be easily shared and commented on. Tweets often gain attention on other social media platforms, like Instagram or Facebook, and since Trump was the president of the United States when he tweeted about his Covid “immunity”, it gained a lot of attention from the press, leading to the spreading of this inaccurate information to be more impactful and widespread. This demonstrates the challenge of the speed at which knowledge, no matter if correct or incorrect, can spread on online platforms.

Bibliography

DPA. October 12, 2020. “Twitter etiqueta como ‘engañoso’ un mensaje de Trump en el que afirma que es ‘immune’ a la Covid-19.” Chicago Tribune. Accessed January 10, 2022. https://www.chicagotribune.com/espanol/sns-es-coronavirus-twitter-enganoso-mensaje-de-trump-que-es-inmune-20201012-z2at55tqlnglvogubebwfxidb4-story.html.

LEO. N.d. “Korb.” LEO. Accessed January 11, 2022. https://dict.leo.org/german-english/korb.

UberFacts. May 17, 2019. “Tweet.” Twitter. Accessed January 10, 2022. https://twitter.com/uberfacts/status/1129186519875502081?lang=en.