This semester, I think we have used technology as the medium in which we have gotten to know “the Other.” Obviously, we have been corresponding through e-mail, probably the oldest form we have used, oddly enough. Each dispatch has been sent this way, causing it to be our most effective and extensive form of communication. From there would have to be Facebook. Some of us have added our partner as a friend and learn through Facebook mediums, like their profile, or status updates. Further into the Facebook medium is the group that was created for us. This group is probably the best way of learning about “the Other.” This group is where we can connect as a whole rather than just the one-on-one e-mails we have had. We can communicate with a larger audience via the Facebook group. Also, the group allows us to use an extensive variety of mediums. There are news articles, political cartoons, YouTube videos, video clips, and so on. I don’t think I can even begin to imagine all of the random sources that people posted in the group. Not only did the group allow for various mediums, it allowed for many more topics. Not everything posted in the group correlated to that week’s dispatch topic. This was great, because anything that we thought was relevant or cool, we could post and let others in on our fascination.
If you are looking at how we get to know other people, or cultures in general, and not specifically our partners, then the answer is still very similar. I don’t think it would be e-mail based, but we would use similar mediums. Facebook would play a role certainly. But I think mediums like YouTube, Twitter, tumblr, books, movies, music, television, and so on would be the main things. The mediums that would be most important would be ones where you do not necessarily need a connection or a set up. Where the information is freely given or thought of. I also think the most important medium is education or knowledge. I would not be writing this if I was in Terrorists and Treehuggers. I wouldn’t even be writing it if I was at Albion College. I would even think this was a possibility if it wasn’t for higher education. So, thinking about it, I think the most important medium that we use to get to know “the Other” is education. Without education, we wouldn’t be able to have the capacity or need or want to learn about “the Other.”
I guess I would hope this education about “the Other” happens daily. That would be my ideal. Do I think that this is true for everyone? Probably not, I’m just being realistic. I would love to have people learn something new about another culture or person every single day. I think that would help humanity. I try to learn things like that every day. I want to make sure that I can learn as much as I can about as many things as possible, including people and cultures and everything else that comes along with that. And because I learn something, I can then turn around and teach it to someone, and so on. Everyone could create this chain reaction of learning. Tell one person something and it continues down the line, reaching more and more people.
Writing is a good way to do this. Language might not be universal, but there is a way to make it universal. Something can easily be translated and given to someone. Knowledge or information is not only for English speakers, or Spanish speakers, or Arabic, or Hindi. It is for everyone. I love language; it is something that can express anything. That is how we communicate. It is just a glorious thing. And the concept that a word is written or spoken one way to be is something foreign and completely obscure to someone else is fascinating. But there is a connection to be made; it can be translated to make sense to “the Other.”
For instance, think of the word “terrorist.” The American connotation is surely different than the Lebanese connotation. It was the very first topic that was discussed. There is always a definition offered by a dictionary, but that doesn’t mean that it can be something else to another person. A dictionary just gives the basic idea, but not anything else. “Terrorist” can have numerous, possibly infinite, meanings. There is such blurriness to it. And thinking about it, would it be better to have a solid definition and no in-between, or to able interpret individually? Would being able to clearly define and sort things into a category that everyone would agree on make things that much better? Would things like war or discrimination decrease? Of course. But then we would be suffering from the lack of other things. There would be no individuality. How would art work? What about literature? Writing would be drastically different. How would cultures work? Or religions? Yes, the concept of culture and religion would be the same. But would that mean every culture and religion would have to be the same, right? I think that is better to have this blurriness, we get more that way. We can understand better. I don’t think we would function as well as a species if everything was the same for everyone.