Mind your language
They say behind every obstacle is an opportunity, and behind every mistake is a lesson. I never quite thought about this cliché quote I often came across on the internet and it wasn’t until the year 2020 that I stopped to really think deeper and more meaningful-ly. This year will always be remembered as a year full of new opportunities – if you consider it that way. For starters think of how the concept of having remote classes and seminars have birthed opportunities for us to become more aware of the changing patterns around us. I know the internet has been around for a solid chunk of time, providing platforms for connecting with others from all over the world. However, as I reflect back on today’s lecture, I shall take out time to appreciate (for lack of better, more suitable words) the turn of events of the current Pandemic, for it allowed for an opportunity to attend talks and conferences conducted by people across the borders, an opportunity that could otherwise not have been availed had it not been a compulsory class lecture requirement.
For the sake of this reflective piece I will set aside the gruesome reality of the Pandemic and focus on the brighter side of the spectrum as I speak of my experience at the virtual Design Beku/Bethak talk on Friday,9th October 2020, which was conducted live from Bangalore, India. In this online conference we discussed and drew connections from the text, Sex and Death in the Rational World of Defense Intellectuals, by Caron Cohen as she explains in her essay that she happened to be one of the very few women who attended the session on the discussion of nuclear weapons. Cohen was quick to realise that the nature of language used by military strategists was such that it distanced them – the strategists- from others -Cohen. How did a talk about weapons change to a series of sexual references, innuendos and phallic references?
To wrap up the short summary Cohen then explained how (in her case) learning the language of others made her lose her own unique way of thinking. This particular statement led me to question several existing concepts, much of which have emerged from my design major of Interaction.
What role does language play? How do we use language to communicate? How do we ask questions? Are the questions we ask phrased in a manner that effectively extracts the answer we’re searching for? What metaphors do we associate with and incorporate in our daily conversations and communications? These are the few unsettling questions I began asking myself in order to better understand the mindset of all those around me. I tried to redirect these mind boggling questions to the field of design but I couldn’t help myself from drawing parallels between design and the everyday activities we engage ourselves with.
For the sake of today’s reflection, I can very well conclude that language is the most vital tool to use and master when it comes to establishing an effective and satisfying communication. I still harbour several questions that I am desperately seeking answers for but at the same time I do understand and validate. Cohen’s view point that language when used differently can create distances and gaps that may become hard to bridge.
Use metaphors to create connections, not conflict.