Second Order Information

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Anthrcul101 Sec 033
First Writing Assignment
In her chapter “How Do You Know”, Ilana Gershon introduces the concept of second order information. Second order information refers to the conjecture of the background information or concealed meaning of a communicated message. The communicated message’s phrases are analyzed beyond their initial literal meanings in order to decipher any expectations or intentions the message may deliver. Various mediums of communication allow for different ways to interpret second order information and new communicative technologies produce new ways to incorporate second order information into daily communication. Even seemingly insignificant details such as mispronouncing words or spelling and grammar errors can make a considerable difference in the interpretation of a message.

Second order information plays a vital role in how messages are written or interpreted. People often struggle to use the correct words while communicating with others. With the addition of second order information, people must furthermore incorporate how the message recipient will interpret the message. Instances of second order information abound in daily life. Friends’ texting or chatting with each other often includes inside jokes or phrases that are significant to only a few people. An employee who received a positive job performance review may try to read between the lines of the report to discover how he can improve. One instance when second order information influenced how I interpreted a message was when I was a part of my high school tennis team. My coach was often hard on us when we would lose a match. However, I often felt that he was much harder on me than on my teammates because he did not compliment me as much as he did for my teammates. He often said things like “you can do better” or “that’s not good enough”. For a while I thought this was unfair and I expressed my discontent in a private meeting with my coach. We had a conversation where he explained that he was hardest on me because of my potential as a player and as a leader for the team. He was always pushing me so that I could achieve more, not because he was picking on me or thought I was less capable. Afterwards, I could see that even though my coach was always coaching me up, he always tried to place a positive spin on how I could always do better or that my standards were not as high as they should be. This is when I discovered that messages can have many complex meanings underneath the initial words. Since that time, I have learned to be more patient and cognizant when I communicate with others. Many problems arise from miscommunication and misinterpretation of messages. PROMPT 2:

Clea Koff provided an interesting, detailed, and informative account of her anthropological work of the former warzone in Bosnia. She highlighted many uses of various research methods in anthropology, including systematic survey, paleopathology, and anthropometry. She writes about the team’s excavation and survey techniques in Cerska: The forensic team had a meeting to discuss our excavation strategy: our first goal, given that we had had a late start, was simply to photo document the entire area and map and collect the projectiles (bullets and shell casings) on the road. There were hundreds of casing visibly embedded in the dirt road…we had to map each projectile on the road by hand, using a triangulation method, and had to develop mathematical equations to calculate the height of the slope. [Koff 2004:129]

This passage describes how the team performed a detailed examination by taking pictures of the locations of various projectiles. All of these recordings allowed the team to “map projectiles on the grave slope as the metal detector identified them, and then start the trench above the grave to determine the depth of the first bodies” (Koff 2004:130). This is a clear example of the systematic survey of a dig site.

She also alludes to...
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