Week 2 Discussion Advice

This is an extremely important topic that speaks to the principle we covered in week 1: respect. When we avoid biased language, we treat others in the ways they want to be treated and address them with their preferred labels, showing them that they are our equals in terms of their ideas and their backgrounds. Once one party opens the doors to disrespect, it is difficult to get back to a civil exchange, and so it is important to understand what biased language is and how to avoid it. If we believe in equality and diversity, two values of the dominant culture of the United States, we try to avoid bias. Here, the concept of implicit bias is explained – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OQGIgohunVw.

As you do your post, consider how this form of bias might find its way into the ways we speak. Before you start working on this post, you must Read chapter 4 in Bevan, with special focus on section 4.1. Watch the video on biased language, which reiterates many of the points from Bevan. After you have read the chapter and watched the video, you will do the following:

1) Using Bevan (Section 4.1), define and explain biased language. An explanation goes deeper than a definition to touch on meaning and significance. Explanations offer examples to illustrate points.

2) Share an example of biased language you saw in a computer-mediated interaction. If you don’t have a personal example, comment sections at the end of news articles often have biased language.

3) How does biased language REFLECT the attitudes, behaviors, and perception of the sender? This is where the question becomes more challenging. Think through how the biased language you are examining shows an “attitude” about a topic. Attitudes are someone’s position on a topic and typically involve some kind of assessment of right or wrong, good or bad. Then, think about behavior. Is the speech itself a form of behavior? Might a person’s spoken words reflect how they behave outside of the use of those words? Finally, you will address perception. Perception is the process of giving meaning to what we observe with our senses. It allows us to make sense of the worlds around us and our ideas. How does biased language reveal the ways users of biased language organize and see the world?

4) How might biased language IMPACT the attitudes, behaviors, and perception of the receiver of the content and/or the sender? Think about what attitudes, behaviors and perceptions are and how hearing biased language can change the way the receiver (listener/observer) understands the message. For instance, if I hear someone using sexist language, I will develop a negative attitude toward the person and it will reinforce my beliefs that the person is unfair in the ways that they think. It violates my values of equality and diversity. In terms of behavior, I might avoid speaking to the person in the future or, when I do, I will be prepared to debate the person. Finally, in terms of perception, I will “organize” the person in my mind as “sexist” or even as a “bigot.” I will perceive the content as a reinforcement of some dangerous ideas that could disrupt my sense of what progress is in the modern world.

5) What is the significance of biased language in computer-mediated contexts specifically? When thinking through this question, consider the following: Why does all of this matter? Is the intent of using biased language to shut others down? To make them feel belittled? Miscommunication is when a message is not received in the way the user intended. Does biased language often result in miscommunication because the receiver, if they don’t agree with the biases, will experience psychological noise and no longer be able to fully listen to the person? Does biased language automatically hurt the receiver? Does this depend on the receiver’s self-concept or self-esteem? With regard to the computer-mediated elements, think about whether the use of computers creates a buffer for those using biased language and emboldens them to speak in ways they would not in face-to-face conversations. Watch the videos in the Week 3 Discussion Video help section to learn more about combatting biased language online.

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