Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Flipping the bird

Nothing too exciting this week. I have just been busy as heck. I had a presentation and two summary papers due Monday and tomorrow I have a 20 page book chapter due. Friday I am guest lecturing for my friend David Cohen in his Info Gathering class, talking about PR data sources. Then Monday I have a mid-term. No wonder my brain hurts!

Yesterday I flipped off my class, giving them the bird several times. I had them laughing. The lecture topic was clear communication and I was trying to get it across the idea that you have to be careful when communicating to other cultures because words, symbols and gestures have different means in different cultures. The example I was giving was that in some countries a thumbs up is the same thing as when we hold up our middle finger. "In some places, this [doing a thumbs up] means the same thing as this [flipping the bird]." They all laughed. In fact one of the students said his roommate, who is from Europe, said that the two finger, "V" peace symbol, is also flipping the bird if you show the other person the back of your hand.

We also had an interesting conversation about discriminatory language. I gave an example of a person calling a young, rookie African-American baseball player a boy (as in, "that boy can hit") and getting in trouble for it. One of the white boys in my class said, "I don't get it." Immediately, one of the black guys in my class spoke up, "I do." He was quickly followed by a few other black students who said "I do." I used that as an example to illustrate that you have to be aware of your audience and how they will perceive the communication.

The students had me laughing so hard yesterday. I am giving the same lecture in today's class. I think I'll flip them off as well.

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