Working with Words

Working with Words

The four modes of social organization — tribes, institutions, markets, and networks — all intentionally utilize words to communicate their unique perspectives and preferences. Words are chosen for their effect in creation stories, in mythologies, in advertising, and in propaganda.

Words themselves are invented for a purpose. They serve as tools of social organization, as weapons of war, as means of manipulation, and as medicine for the maligned.

Depending on how they are used, words can cause horrendous harm or great good. Meanings can be distorted or clarified.

Working with words can gain one respect, renown, and reward, but it can also generate resentment. Not all messages are appreciated.

Learning to use words effectively requires an understanding of the principles of communication, especially in what is termed netwar, which assumes that all communication in all its dimensions is contested, no matter the stated intent of the participants. Words are meant to achieve, and as propositions in the arena of human consciousness, they will be confronted; as such, working with words is serious business.

Achieving Coherence

As an editor, blogger and correspondent, I frequently come across brilliant scholars and committed activists struggling to communicate vital stories to institutional leaders, philanthropic donors, and media gatekeepers. As a communications advisor, I am amazed at how little attention is paid by these devoted humanitarians to the principles of this science.

As it is, many writers in academia – while often informative – are sometimes difficult to follow, as they offer bits of topics here and there.

Part of effective storytelling is to be interesting, which few writers accomplish, but to arrive at academic stature, that story needs to be sufficiently coherent. With essays by emerging authors, it is best for them to learn to think about structure and narrative coherence by doing that work themselves, but for those lacking a background in journalism or literature, manuals on such topics as briefings are worth looking at. Some pertinent articles are listed below.

Storytelling and Globalization
http://www-bcf.usc.edu/~monge/pdf/Storytelling_Netwar_ECO_2005.pdf

Networks and Netwars
http://www.rand.org/pubs/monograph_reports/MR1382/

Communication, Power and Counter-power in the Network Society
http://ijoc.org/ojs/index.php/ijoc/article/view/46/35

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~ by Jay Taber on November 26, 2008.

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