Talk to Me the importance of Language in the digital Age,

Examining how words shape our reality, and how we can take control.

Analysis by Lauren Hopkins

1. Language and Perception

The words others choose to describe us, as well as the words we use to describe ourselves have power. Would you rather be called bossy or assertive? Chunky or voluptuous? These terms permeate into our self-perception, and can cause negative self-image.

For example, in David Buckingham's interview with educator Steve Goodman, Goodman warns against the dangers of labeling students "at risk": "First, we need to adopt a “strengths based” view of youth, acknowledging that although they may have experienced failure in school, that failure does not define them. They still have intelligence, talent, dignity and a sense of agency."

2. Transcribing Meaning

As Renee Hobbs details in her text Create to Learn, artists commonly use words and captions to provide context for their images. In journalism, "headlines and captions essentially tell people how to interpret an image" (Hobbs 149). Thus, as authors, we must be precise in our word choice, and cognizant of all possible interpretations offered by our language. Conversely, as consumers, we need to question the motivation of those producing information.

3. Speaking for Systemic Change

Now that we acknowledge the power of our words, how can can we harness those words to provoke meaningful transformation? Steve Goodman suggests "we can challenge those 'at risk' labels with alternative terms that point to the structural roots of the problem." When "drop out" becomes "push out", it calls public attention to the failings of under-funded, over-crowded schools, rather than the "failing" of the child. The child pushed out of a broken system; the child is not what is broken.

4. #Revolution

Educators must also recognize the power of language in social media as a platform for change. Networking sites such as Twitter and Instagram allow those who may not inherently possess power to use their words and voices to call attention to social injustice. Goodman references how the recent Twitter campaign #OscarsSoWhite called attention to the need for increased diversity in the entertainment industry.

So what is the takeaway? Images have power, but our words can transform their meaning. With explicit instruction, we can help youth become producers of media that inspires change and challenges the status quo.


Created with images by rawpixel - "office adult computer" • Greyerbaby - "hands words meaning" • Annie Spratt - "Writing on the wall" • Alexas_Fotos - "time for a change new ways letters" • William Iven - "Social Media Facebook"

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