Jed Cohen

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The Benefits of Diction

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Diction is done with the tip of the tongue and the teeth.

I spent a lot of time in the theater while I was in high school.  Not on the stage, but behind (and above) it.  Building sets, stringing together light cues, and managing the cast and crew.  As part of the last one, I sat in on every aspect of rehearsals, including vocal warmups – which is where the phrase above is from.

But diction is not just how we say what we say; it is also what we say.  Because word choice can be just as important as tone, or facial expression, or posture when conveying meaning.

Consider the health insurance reform debate in the United States.  I do not wish to get into the politics of the situation; instead let’s just focus on the fact that health insurance, when provided by an employer, is considered a benefit.  But is health insurance really something that provides an advantage?  I would argue that the answer is no given the cost of modern health care.  Instead, it is a necessity.  And I can not help but wonder whether or not health care reform would be so controversial if we all viewed it that way.

I do not want to suggest that by altering one word we can completely reframe the way people view this issue.  But maybe by using the right words in the right place we can change the way we view the problem.  And that can often lead to solutions we’d never have considered before.

Written by Jed

October 16th, 2009 at 10:21 am

Are You Sustainable?


Okay, so if you’ve been reading any a few of my previous posts, you’ll know about some of the pretty cool things I’ve done while I was at NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study – like my tutorial (group independent study) on New Media, New Politics and the Future of Democracy and my colloquium (senior capstone) on the Role of Propaganda in Modern Democracy.  One of the other tutorials that I worked on while I was there was a social marketing venture that we called the Ademos Project.  The Ademos Project arose out of a final project I did for a Gallatin class my sophomore year called “Walter Lippmann and the Manufacture of Consent.”  Little did I know when I took the class that it would end up shaping most of my college career.

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The New Yorker Summit

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I went to The New Yorker Summit today.  It was pretty great.  The Summit began with a keynote by Malcolm Gladwell, and then featured panels focused around three areas – “The Economy and Financial Markets”; “Priorities: Health, Education, Energy, and the Environment”; and “Foreign Policy: Defense and Diplomacy.”  Gladwell started the day discussing the problem with experts – how experts in a given field (he used the financial markets) are much more likely to both be miscalibrated when it comes to their own skills and knowledge and suffer from the illusion that they control random events.  This did set the tone a bit for the rest of the day (which I suppose is what a good keynote should do), but the conversations ranged across many topics.  My favorites included Nassim Taleb and Robert Shiller’s panel on the economic crisis; Geoffrey Canada’s talk on how to create scalable, lasting educational programs for disadvantaged children; and Seymour Hersch’s conversation with David Remnick on foreign policy and some of the scary things he knows.  But don’t just take it from me – why don’t you read The New Yorker’s coverage of………itself.  How very meta.

Anyway, maybe more later after it all sinks in and I have a chance to review my notes?

Written by Jed

May 5th, 2009 at 11:33 pm

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