Thursday, July 07, 2005

Looming crisis in communication?

Are we on the verge of a looming crisis in interpersonal communication? This blog was named after an insight i had while listening to Stephen Downes talk at the Northern Voice blogging conference. The concept is that words are not neutral tags, they are deeply embedded in and imbued with contextual baggage that warps or draws meaning to themselves and away from the communicator's true intention--the way the orbits of planets are altered by the gravitational pull of other large objects.

This contextual baggage is of two basic natures: historical and experiential. Every word has a history of usage. This history is generally known and shared among speakers from within a specific cultural (and sometimes a whole language) group. This history, we as communicators can become aware of and to some extent mitigate for. We often know when a word has more than one strong meaning and can specify which we are using.

The other kind of baggage--experiential--is almost impossible to know or accomodate for. Each person has a unique set of experiences of a word-concept and word-connections that subtly alter the meaning of what is heard. It is a part of the subjective filter we all bring to our communication. We can become more aware of this filter, but very few of us can avoid its functioning at least on some level.

Now, pull to this the concepts of the evolution of consciousness and the functioning of memes. For those of you who haven't encountered the Spiral Dynamics folks, you can check this out more fully at their website. To keep this short ( I will 'cause I have an intransigent cold and need to get some sleep--which has been more than elusive lately.) I see a schism developing that is not merely about generations, but about levels and types of consciousness (in SD terms--I think particularly strong between yellow or turquoise types and the others.). This difference in consciousness creates a wider gap in experience and hence a greater gravitational effect on the words we use to attempt to convey our thoughts and meaning to each other.

It seems to me that communicating ideas is becoming increasingly difficult. The words are elusive, often completely misunderstood, and building bridges of understanding seems to take either an immense effort of background defining or falls into metaphor and poetics--the calling card of the mystic...

How does it seem to you? What might this mean to the art of conversation? Or to the great work of transformation (ie: saving what's left of the planet) that is before us?

Will try to break this down a bit more in future posts.

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