Archiv der Kategorie: Meaning design

In this area it is all about meaning design ===>

What we can know

What we can know was already a concern of Socrates according to Plato “I know that I do not know (actually: I know as a non-knower – οἶδα οὐκ εἰδώς, oîda ouk eidōs)? Heinrich von Pierer also had his view on his company’s knowledge: If Siemens knew what Siemens knows. Despite all attention, it is overlooked that knowledge only becomes tangible indirectly through appropriate media (paper, electronic media, and channels). It is not an exchange of knowledge that takes place but copying of data. The sender does not let go of its knowledge but instead offers distorted formulations through filters (see Meta model of language). It is the receiver who interprets the data. The continuous evolution of our knowledge reinforces the distortions. What is true today may be false tomorrow. In 2017, Kellyanne Conway drew attention in the right direction by talking about alternative facts. Niklas Luhmann described that information, communication, and understanding are contingent occurrences in the last century, i.e., a statement is neither necessary nor impossible and can be one way or another. What can we still know today with this insight?

Suppose we disregard for a moment the sender’s intentions and look at the content, the knowledge. In that case, there remain a few questions that must be clarified in advance to be able to criticize each other: What is knowing? How is it different from not knowing? The following points provide food for thought.

  • Sign – Data – Information – Knowledge – Wisdom
    Since the accelerated processing of data with IT, we face the question: What is information? After the millennium turn, knowledge management has answered the query with the knowledge pyramid (see also meme units). On the lowest level, there are the signs (icons, pictures, light or sound signals), which can be represented on the next level as data (e.g., 101010). As soon as the data is on the level above in a context of meaning, information (e.g., 42) results. Information accumulated over time then networks into knowledge on the next layer (e.g., the ultimate answer to the question of life, the universe, and everything) that then becomes wisdom at the top (e.g., science fiction provides exciting ideas). There are no interfaces to assess the top three levels by factual means. Nobody can look into the head of another.
  • Seeing is believing – is knowing?
    In the pre-Internet era, the fourth estate, the media, besides the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government, controlled interpretations of circumstances. Things written in black and white, which existed as a photo or film, and were accepted as a given. In the absence of opinions expressed by other eyewitnesses, no doubts arose. Today, everyone has a cell phone, access to social media, and even their website. This makes them a publisher with global reach – without universally accepted values and in a legal vacuum only with national regulations that are difficult to enforce. Take Wikipedia as an example, that only publishes articles relevant to an encyclopedia, provably published elsewhere, and compiled by the author. This excludes undocumented knowledge. Thus, we understand only half.
  • Is oral tradition knowledge?
    The writing was invented just over 7000 years ago. Before that, knowledge was transferred for millennia by oral tradition. In Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury imagined even a bookless future in which the classics of world literature were again passed on orally. This spoken word, for example, would not find its way into Wikipedia. To limit our knowledge to data that is on any physical carrier would let us become stultified. The truth would be left to the authors, photographers, filmmakers, and other archivers without publication. Only when thoughts are externalized into a medium, they will become knowledge. Thus, the world does not know what the world knows.
  • Personal explanations
    Knowledge is formed exclusively in the mind of the observer. The personal field, the learned models of thinking, experiences made over time, and unconscious feelings are decisive for the respective interpretation. This leads to different facts like the above interpretation of Douglas Adams, or the other reading of Lewis Carroll, namely any signification, show. It was new for me that 42 is also the second pseudo-perfect number. And who knows that it is Frank’s current age. Since the receiver determines the meaning, the sender’s intent gets lost because it cannot be transmitted. The world will have to endure willy-nilly with alternative facts.
  • Confirmed facts – if so, how many proofs
    The description of a situation depends on the standpoint. Different views automatically result in alternative realities that are coherent in themselves. Besides, observers standing close together will additionally agree to descriptions due to unconscious group pressure, although they may have made a different observation. Do many observers make a fact better? If so, how many must be there to be known? For the classical media, at least two concurring sources are enough to adopt a fact. Isolated observations do not enrich the knowledge of the world?
  • Knowledge gets crafted by science
    Knowledge is located in science. The various disciplines have expanded their echo chambers to such an extent that overarching approaches seek to integrate different pieces of knowledge. For example, when engineering incorporates knowledge from biology into the new field of bionics. The advantage of science comes from the extensive evidence gathered in laboratories or reality and published in studies. It becomes difficult with phenomena that cannot be measured, such as the effects of homeopathic compounds. The natural reaction of scientists to such black box effects is rejection because of the lack of detectability. Such (non-) knowledge’s proponents are disparaged as esotericism, mystics, sectarians, or conspiracy theorists. Do we exclude the wisdom of a shaman or Socrates from the world knowledge?
  • Only verity is knowledge
    Karl Popper dissolved the aberration that only confirmed facts are true with his falsification. The real truth is only obtained when a point is disproved. And how do we classify the broad field of literature? Is it knowledge if we know the personnel of the Human Comedy or the Steppenwolf? Are fictional stories true? Does an unusual perspective lead to special knowledge? Can this knowledge be questioned because the majority perceived it differently? In the end, all facts are remarkable and valid. All turn their attention to different aspects. Even statements, which falsify willfully, create knowledge (In this case, the why would be needed). Doesn’t world knowledge include everything?

Bottom line: The intangible nature of knowledge makes it difficult to classify. The different data formats do not give any information about where the knowledge comes from – except: out of the mind of a person. Do you understand the sentence? In Japanese: この文を理解していますか?; or in Arabic: هل تفهم هذه الجملة؟. However, we are open to all kinds of knowledge as soon as we see or hear it. However, what information we understand depends on us, on our wealth of experience. As group beings, we tend to follow the many – which explains the influx of conspiracy theorists. However, you should ask yourself whether a so-called conspiracy theory is not also knowledge. After all, we believe the results of scientists as well without being able to check them. Libraries are full of scientific papers describing our state of knowledge – but what is declared valid today may be outdated tomorrow. Even truth does not help us because everyone has its reality, which fits coherently into its concepts. What we can know is that many views cannot be reduced to one fact. It is much more critical to avoid holy wars because it lies in the nature of propositions that they could be different. We have to learn to deal with alternative facts instead of negating them categorically.

Opinions are the new truths

We ALWAYS perceive the world with our senses. That way, we only see and hear what our filters let through – what we already know and sometimes we notice something unknown. All sensory impressions, including the media, we examine and classify them as true or false. For example, we derive from persons’ visible behavior, expectations, intentions, beliefs, and mental models, which altogether become our actual image of the person. More reliable seem to be the external facts that suggest with their measurability reliable truth. An excellent example of the vagueness of standards are the Japanese room sizes measured in Tatami. The look into a typical room shows six Tatami. This size corresponds to a good 9 m2 in Tokyo and East Japan and almost 11 m2 in Kyōto and West Japan. However, people who do not know, believe that Japan’s standard room is the same size, namely six jō. What remains are the opinions, which are assumed by each and every one as truth.

Statements lose their claim to truth as soon as the audience interprets them. Fact checks degenerate to an additional distortion of meaning due to the filters of the fact-checkers. The following points show the limits to the formation of opinions.

  • Words determine the limits
    Observe your inner images that result from reading the following examples.
    Example 1: A crowd of concerned citizens gathered in the marketplace in order to campaign for a different distribution of support measures.
    Example 2: A group of right-wingers rioted under the war memorial against left-wing alternative groups’ unfair preference.
    Example 3: 45 people; marketplace; stake of prohibition signs, with messages like more justice for families; equal opportunities for all, better sick than ruined, etc.
    Facts can be charged negatively or positively by choice of words, regardless of the particular situation. Authors can strengthen the effect by adding evaluative sense: Freedom fighters or terrorists; state power or security forces; legitimate or unauthorized; all and everyone versus Group-A and Group-B; or currently lateral thinking, which usually means innovative thinking but is hijacked in Germany by conservatives as a synonym for resistance to Covid measures.
  • Image crops move the border
    A picture reporter photographs the event from different perspectives – sometimes on the stake; sometimes on selected signboards; sometimes on combat boots; sometimes on individual persons pressed to the ground by three helmeted police officers; sometimes on single police officers pushed to the ground by several masked activists; from the perspective of the demonstrators on the policemen; from the perspective of the policemen on the demonstrators; from below; from above; from a long shot showing all the demonstrators; a long shot showing the top of the demonstration and not allowing any conclusion about the total number of participants.
    The image crop influences the still image in the same way as the moving image. In both cases, the cameraman decides on the respective image detail.
  • Video edits dynamize the border
    The moving images are cut in the studio and composed as desired. Small sequences of 1 to 10 seconds are created from the original material and reassembled. The resulting cut-outs and the new order produce the truth that will be perceived by the viewer. Whoever lies on the floor first is the victim – depending on the cut, a representative of the authorities or a demonstrator lies on the floor and gets maltreated. Whoever maltreats people becomes the perpetrator, who is defeated becomes the victim. Additionally, the selected image details enforce the effect (see above). The cutters or editors determine the rhythm of the images and the interaction with the sound.
  • The sound supports the border
    Most of the time, movies include sound – original sound, separately recorded ambient noise, music or commentators in the background, and post-synchronized voices – the skillful mix results in the soundtrack of films. The smart design of the sound influences the effect of the images without consciously noticing the sounds – impure voice recordings, e.g., intense noise or reverberation upsets; the tone of the commentary (e.g., fast or slow pronunciation, loud or soft; euphoric or dubious whispering) creates the basic mood; the scale of the music (i.e., major or minor) creates additional feelings; the background noise adds additional dynamic (e.g., the noise of machines; strong or light wind; even splashing of water or thundering breakers; etc.). Sound engineers thus contribute significantly to the mood of a film.
  • Thinking patterns set the limit
    In the end, viewers and listeners decide how they interpret the content provided. The perspectives result in different truths for everyone – depending on chosen words and design. When “translators”, e.g., critics, curators and, commentators, interpret the content they incorporate their opinions involuntarily. This usually happens unconsciously – even if some exploit the vagueness to twist the meaning. For example, the thought pattern of freedom: some understand not being forced to do anything, i.e., to be independent of others’ pressure. Then there are the liberals in politics, who believe they can act freely, which means for them to do with others what they want.

Bottom line: The term ‘Alternative Facts’ describes this new norm perfectly. Populists recognized this term’s value early on and used it to defend themselves against statements from competing groups. It culminates in the claim to have the true facts. Before the printing of books hundreds of years ago, People passed on contents mainly orally. With the dissemination of content by publishers and later broadcasters, the respective institutions took control of what was supposed to be a fact. With the Internet, Pandora’s box has been opened. Everyone can participate today. Unfortunately, many do not understand that by posting something on the Internet, they are PUBLISHING. It makes visible what is going on in people’s minds. The boundaries are determined by choice of words, the image crop, the editing of images, the sound, and last but not least, by the target group’s thinking patterns. This is what makes opinions to the new truths – and we must learn to deal with it, now.