The Lens Shifting Letter: Spring 2019


bias geography identity influence jargon language linguicism Manipulation media representation perception stereotype word choice

Here at LensShift we are heading into Spring with renewed purpose, some big dreams, and a sense of moving the platform forward.

On the site recently, we have focused on different aspects of language use, and the effects on both the speaker or writer as well as their audience. Other resources published this year have showcased questions around African identities and issues of colonial influence, public health, and media representation.

Here are some snippets of what’s new on the LensShift platform

Language and the words we use affect both how we think and what others think about us. Understanding the origins of the words we use can help us avoid language that may seem innocuous, but can evoke unintended feelings and emotions. In our newly released practical guide, 6 ways to practice better language habits, we offer hints on how to think about how we speak and write, and why certain language can harm those we seek to help. All of us here at LensShift have been surprised to learn about some aspect of language that is considered problematic.

As we think about our own use of language it’s important to work toward increased sensitivity, but to be realistic in our expectations. In our other new Practical Guide we offer some questions to ask ourselves as we think about the words we use and how they might affect other people. Do we know the origins of the words we use? Do our words stereotype people or display some sort of bias? Do the media outlets we follow perpetuate stereotypes and oversimplifications Our other new practical guide, Detecting Problematic Language, also links to some LensShift and external resources on the topic designed to make you think about how language can be used to manipulate people’s perceptions.

For more interesting perspectives and discussion about language use, please take a look at our previously released “Examining Language” stream and its associated resources. We have also produced an in-depth chart looking at the problems associated with geographic labeling.

Some of our most recently published resources:

The LensShift team is actively exploring several alternative avenues to expand the reach of our message, and searching for some additional help building out the website, including search functionality and features to improve interactivity. If you are interested in joining the team as a web development fellow, please take a look at the job description.

Here’s to a new season of fresh ideas and learning,

The LensShift team