On Context

Context, the events setting; the circumstances in which an event occurs; the part of a text or statement that surrounds a particular word or passage that determines its meaning (The Free Dictionary)

Context is an interesting word as it conveys the situation in which the text/statement occurred. I think of context as the setting where the content interacts with the observer.

I’m not a Biblical scholar, but I realize that many use its text out of context, thus aiding to a misinterpretation by many. Whether it’s the verses preceding and following, or the understanding of the writers intent and the situation at the time, all of this is part of context. I also imagine this is also true across texts of other religions besides Christianity.

In the image to the right, do you initially see the old lady or the young lady? Whichever, can you see the other? Would you have even considered the other if I didn’t mention it? Besides context, the observer’s perception influences their context of an event. A person sometimes is so influenced by what they initial observe, they fail to open their mind for other observations. Besides the surrounding context, the initial perception and subsequent interpretation influences a personal point of view.

The observer also brings their own experiences and biases to the interpretation table. The news media is simply one example. With all the talk about media bias, how many of us have a preferred media source based on their delivery of the information we want to hear? In other words, we tend to assemble information into a favorable and similar explanation (and presumably agreeable) over the complex, unfamiliar, and disagreeable.

All this brings me to the current election season. Politicians make statements, and each has a particular context. Good reporters will also set the context of that statement, yet with the proliferation in electronic media, I wonder how many fail to set the context or rely on their own perceptions and biases to set a context favoring their position?

So that leaves the observers – the ones who need to judge the statement based on the context – but can the observer make a judgment without (or at least limiting) their bias?

In the recent Florida primary, reports indicate that over 90% of the political ads were negative. Given the current political climate and role of Super PAC money, in the days ahead the parties, the candidates, and the supportive minions will inundate Americans with statements taken out of context and planted in the incorrect context, thus deliver false information in order to gain votes.

While the majority of voters will judge the information on their individual perceptions and biases, including their own sense of right and wrong, who will do the research to sort through the piles of crap? Better yet, if found, who will listen?

PS: Associated past posts applicable to this topic”