Basic: the map is not the territory, even when it’s a flag

korzybski

I’ve put off commenting on this controversy, mainly because I have no interest in taking part in whatever the current social media flavor-of-the-month might be. But this particular one is continuing, and the discussion almost inevitably neglects to take into account a basic principle of communication, a neglect that not only fuels controversy, but fuels violence.

Alfred Korzybski in particular made us aware of this basic principle through his insights in the field that became known as general semantics.

General semantics involves a lot of insights, actually, but the one I’m focusing on today is this: the map is not the territory.
Continue reading “Basic: the map is not the territory, even when it’s a flag”

Share this, please!
Share

Wait…. is that the same word?

Girl inflating a red balloon

Regular readers know my daughter is in the hospital. We are working on day 16 at this point, and know that we won’t be able to go home until day 19. Some of our delay in going home comes from an interesting communication issue. Continue reading “Wait…. is that the same word?”

Share this, please!
Share

Who are you talking to?

Ten and Rose

Do you ever have conversations with someone else in your head? Someone real, or maybe even someone fictitious? Surely I’m not the only one who does this.

In the middle of the night, not quite awake but not quite asleep, I’ll “write.” I’ll imagine writing out entire stories, blog posts, book chapters. I’ll envision standing on a stage and speaking to an audience. It’s brilliant stuff, too, if I only had a way to capture it. Continue reading “Who are you talking to?”

Share this, please!
Share

Just the facts? The way you say it matters

Detail of Aaron's Tree assignment
Creative Commons License photo credit: goldberg

“Just the facts” is a phrase not only a part of American culture, but part of a values system–as if the facts can be separated from the expression of facts. Here’s the reality: there is no such thing as facts apart from the expression of those facts, and the expression of facts inevitably changes the perception. The mere selection of facts, of which facts to focus on, changes perception.

For instance, Scott Shane notes a very important dichotomy in the way people talk about tax increases on businesses (as if a tax increase on business doesn’t just get passed on to the rest of us anyway–but that’s a different point). In his article Less than a Tenth or More than Four Fifths? he says, “The share of small businesses and the fraction of small business income hit by tax increases are usually very different numbers.” Both are simply facts, and yet the choice of which to focus on in a talk or a paper yield very different impressions.

Continue reading “Just the facts? The way you say it matters”

Share this, please!
Share