Learn the difference between content, context, and actually getting to your best meaning?
Do you wonder what 10% means? What constitutes misinformation? Are you often searching for meaning? Well, this is because the content “10%” is meaningless without knowing the context. Merriam-Webster defines context as the words are phrases that surround an event that helps give us meaning. And if we don’t understand the meaning, we have to ask questions until we get enough context so that we do understand. Let’s take, for example, 100% of our students get jobs after graduation. This doesn’t provide enough context for us to understand whether or not the students got jobs in the field they studied or if they got good well-paying jobs. We just don’t have enough context to judge the correct meaning of the statement.
Misinformation, on the other hand, is content without the correct context. Unfortunately, skilled wordsmiths, manipulate the English language to make us believe something that is false when, upon closer inspection it is true. So the first protection you have against misinformation is your ability to ask questions to determine whether the content and the context make sense when used together.
The statement “Science is wrong so we shouldn’t believe it” should put you on alert. Start your mind questioning the statement because the context contained in this statement is insufficient to allow you to decide what it means. What is their statement based upon — a failed experiment, a one in a million occurrence, or general disbelief in science. For you to determine whether you agree or disagree, you have to ask questions like:
- What is the basis for the statement?
- Who made it?
- Why did the person make it?
- Do they have an agenda?
- What does your personal experience tell you?
This is why good reporters ask, get an answer, then need to ask one or more follow-up questions. They know you do not get the full context from the first answer and that they need to probe deeper to understand the true meaning.
Meaning = Content in Context.
Determining meaning from the information we get is what we have to do daily. Almost all of the information is slanted from the writer’s view. But, we have a brain and reasoning power so we can evaluate the content and determine the context regardless of whether it is words, graphs, %’s or numbers. We can ask enough questions to determine the context and determine the meaning for ourselves.
Without context, a word or phrase can be misinterpreted differently from one person to another. For example, the sentence “I am going on a diet” can mean something different to someone who is overweight then it does to someone who is already thin.
Content is irrelevant when it does not fit within a context. And context cannot be removed from the content for the content to have meaning.
Context is the environment in which content exists and will be judged; this includes the historic, social, and cultural data that contribute to meaning.
Always look at the content, ask questions about the content, and determine what it means to you.