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Saved by Cathy
on March 26, 2009 at 11:39:45 am

Welcome to the Anti Oppression Wiki!

Why an Anti Oppression Wiki?

Each of the entries in this Wiki address issues of power including how power operates in human processes.  Oppression and marginalization are two of such human processes that require critique in order to remove them from categories in society that have been deemed normal and thus inevitable, and relocate them to spaces in which action and change are possible and thus essential.   This Wiki has been created to contribute to this relocation process, by bringing together terms/words/phrases that are used to describe human experiences.  By providing a critical definition, the implications of these terms can be brought into question.   The terms themselves are not anti-oppressive.  It is what we do with them that can allow this Wiki to have its honourable title.

However, the process of gathering information and presenting it through an electronic medium, is in itself a human process involving power. Critically deconstructing the content of these terms alone, does not make participating in this Wiki an anti-oppressive exercise.

The concept of  an enclycopedia, in which all known facts are systematically gathered to present to the world may seem apolitical.  However, the message as well as the medium (McLuhan, 1969) is strongly tied to power and thus indeed political. A Wiki presents an even more complex medium to accompany the message of the encyclopedia.

            In Neil Postman’s book “Technopoly” (1992) he addresses the idea of language in the chapter entitled “ Invisible Technologies”. Postman argues that we (as humans) are unaware of the ideological implications of language and they thus go unquestioned:

“Language has an ideological agenda that is apt to be hidden from view.  In the case of language, that agenda is so deeply integrated into our personalities and world-view that a special effort and, often special training are required to detect its presence. Language appears to be not an extension of our powers but simply a natural expression of who and what we are.  This is the great secret of language: Because it comes from inside us, we believe it to be a direct unedited, unbiased apolitical expression of how the world really is” (Postman, 1992, p.84). 

Postman’s (1992) argument around language and its connection to the notion of objective knowledge goes on to include discussions of question formulation, the use of statistics, ranking, reification and polling.  Each of these discussions emphasizes the idea that there is no language that is truly objective.

            What is considered to be legitimate knowledge is expressed through language thus making the use of language a political act.  In its expression of legitimate knowledge, language is used as a method for oppressing and marginalizing people.  People’s gender, race, ability, sexual orientation, age and class all affect what kind of language they use.

            Individuals and groups are socialized to use certain language in certain ways which are indicative of power relations and imbalances.  In addition, some social systems and structures use certain language that holds more power or can be used to exercise more power and thus acquire more opportunities than others. For example, the medical system uses scientific language and its professionals are generally higher paid than professionals within the social service system.

            As the fact that language itself constructs the impossibility of neutral or objective knowledge in a Wiki, the discussion can move on to the medium through which this knowledge is transmitted.  A Wiki uses the medium of electronic media to present the content/knowledge that is constructed through language.  However, the medium is in no way a neutral tool for transmitting knowledge.

             Many issues arise that implicate Wiki’s in the political process of knowledge construction such as: issues around access i.e.) How are Wikis experienced by people who are deaf and/or blind? Who has access to the Internet? In which way the information is accessed, i.e.) the positioning of links changes the way that you read/process information, implications of the use of an electronic source rather than a book, issues around generational understandings of technology, questions around who controls the information that is on a Wiki, i.e.) what kind of political tampering/maneuvering happens to information? Issues around how the information is received, i.e.) the effects of popups, sounds, other windows that you have open simultaneously serving as distractions.


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