Saturday, October 22, 2011

Just How Easily Miscommunication Occurs

It has been a proven fact that we anticipate the next sentence while reading a set of sentences i.e a paragraph. Normally it is considered as a part of discourse processing abilities of our mind, and considered essential to understand a piece of communication. On the other hand, there is an other view that we read what we want to read, or in simple words we perceive meaning which we desire. This second theory looks a bit more aggressive or extremist. But in lots of cases it is true. Specially when we talk about propaganda literature: the people who side with them will see it positively while the people who are against that ideology will perceive it negatively. There are actually very few people who make their mental understanding of the text after fully reading it. Most of us tend to understand the letter from the cover, and make a pre-reading expectation in our mind. And afterwards fit the text or piece of communication in it. Another factor which also helps form pre-reading expectation is the context. The heading or the name of writer/speaker of the text may be considered co-text, while the surrounding clues which are other than language can be considered context.
This post was about a miscommunication actually. The context was online, from Facebook. There is a group of Pakistani English bloggers where they discuss how to blog, and other such stuff. The general background on discussions is about opportunity whether it’s in terms of writing better blog posts, using ads effectively, new ad networks, new topics to blog or writing guest posts on some blog. So it is legitimate to have a discussion on possible job opportunities i.e. working as a blogger. This little piece of miscommunication was triggered partially through this background and context. The rest was covered by the choice of words.
Now if you see the first sentence Anybody wants to get interviewed?, it may look like writer wants to ask for bloggers to be interviewees for her blog. It’s just fine until now and reader is understanding what the writer is saying. But the second part turns things upside down. Looking for a Tech Blogger (bla bla bal), the very wording of this sentence is compelling towards what the reader wants to understand from context i.e. a job opportunity. Now here it may be observed that co-text is over ridden by context of the utterance. I myself concluded that this message means “I want to hire a technical blogger. Come and get interviewed.”. The other comments are clearly getting the meaning what I perceived in my first reading. But writer (perhaps she got the impression that something was wrong with her wording), in last comment clarifies what she wants. if we see again in the original message’s first sentence, the message was clear she just wanted to interview some bloggers to create content for her own blog. But the context of the message and the expectations of the readers over ridden all the meaning what was intended, and the readers perceived what they wanted to perceive (in a manner of speaking).
So folks you see, how choice of words, context and our own pre-reading expectations change the meaning of words and cause miscommunication. Smile