in Process, Research

Thoughts on: Ch 4 – Body, Personal Relations, and Spatial Values by Yi Fu Tuan

The article talks about a variety of concepts with relation to orientation, scale, spatiality and other units of measurement(distance etc). I found the section about how chosen words can imply certain/specific meanings of particular interest.

Bearing the overwhelming assault of cultures across the globe, via the Internet or New Media, I observe a noticeable change in the way people speak and correspondingly, what they mean. In the 1990s, when someone said ‘Yes I will get it done soon‘, one can expect the ‘soon‘ to mean within a few hours or the day. Fast forward 2020, the same adverb can mean anything from minutes to never.

Similarly, personal encounters have become equally confusing and non-specific. For instance, when someone says to ‘Catch up sometime soon!’, it could mean either of the following:

  • he/she expects an invitation soon
  • doesn’t expect one, and will not respond even if invited
  • will try to avoid invitations with every excuse possible, without being explicitly clear that he/she didn’t meant what was said earlier
  • doesn’t really want to catch up, but just to ‘keep in touch‘, for practical or other reasons

Another particularly common example is also seen in political speeches. In statistically driven statements, true numbers are often obscufated with positive tones of ‘significant‘ or ‘upward trend‘, and equally downplayed negative tones of ‘statistically insignificant‘ or ‘temporary decrease‘.

My point, simply being, how the ‘units of measure’ in daily speech has evolved to an subtly complex, indiscernible, and largely superfluous way of authentic communication. Perhaps gone are the good old days of simple, direct language.

  1. Interesting points Yixue regarding “units of measurement” in everyday speech and how the understanding of these have changed over time.  Authentic communication in terms of speech is one thing (and it would be interesting to know what forms this can take) but how can people communicate authentically using body language? What are the unspoken gestures that people use (this differs in different cultures) to communicate without speaking?