Ignorance and COVID-19

After Governor Cuomo’s announcement recently where he said that CUNY and SUNY schools would be engaging in “distant learning,” for the rest of the spring semester, I have only felt more and more dazed. My immediate thoughts once seeing his announcement were: what is going on? I am from Long Island; how am I expected to move out in the next few days? This makes no sense! Huh?!

I am sure each of us can identify with this level of frustration and confusion. Just days ago, we were all about to sit in our English classroom in Bailey Hall, chilling, even in spite of the infestation of asbestos on campus. I am sure we are each still trying to adjust to a new method of learning, in not just one but for all of our classes. 

The coronavirus, originating from bats in China, has undoubtedly brought rage, frustration, anger, sickness and overall chaos to our world. I have sat in my house for days now, waiting until I feel it is safe enough to re-emerge into society without the fear of exposing my family to this virus. 

Among other things, the coronavirus has indefinitely revealed people’s ignorance. I witness this in my extended family and on social media. My grandfather’s brothers, all of whom are in the late 70s if not early 80s, refuse to stay home. They deny how serious this virus is, even while their own relatives in my family are currently fighting it off and keep telling them to be safe. They deny this even while putting my other family members in an unsafe position since they are being exposed to a virus. Of course, too, this virus is especially dangerous for older people who are more susceptible to its contraction. My mom’s cousins write in our family chats, desperately asking what they should do to force their parents to stay home. This in itself is an example of ignorance.

Ignorance is also evident across social media platforms. On Snapchat, I see pictures of people with the captions “social distancing” or “6 feet away” or something that is meant for them to poke jokes at the virus. I know sometimes humor is what helps mediate a chaotic world, but considering some people have died or are in hospitals because of this virus, it just appears more obnoxious and bitter. 

Ignorance is a concept addressed in James Gleick’s popular science book The Information. In the paragraph that addresses this idea, Gleick says, “Ignorance is subjective. It is a quality of the observer” (326). 

Subjective means that someone’s views are influenced by their personal feelings or thoughts. In the case of this virus, my relatives and social media acquaintances believe that this virus is a joke and that they are invincible. I know people who have been affected by COVID-19 and who are miserable right now, waiting to be healthy as quickly as possible. People who continue to assemble or who think they are untouchable are bringing society down with them. 

Our course follows the concept of communication, within, between, and among the humanities. Humanities is a study that is mainly associated with society and culture. So, in this case, ignorance roots from the humanities in the case that people who continue to avoid doing what is morally right are influenced by those who are ignorant in society. In other words, society is what encourages others to misbehave, even while evidence and sick people are telling people to behave. 

Social media is connected to the humanities since people who promote being with friends and who are not actually “socially distancing” themselves are then encouraging other people to do the same and misbehave. This issue in turn is what adds to the exposure of the virus and adds to the amount of time that this virus will stick around. 

As for WhatsApp, my relatives are influenced by their more traditional culture that sickness cannot stop them. Decades ago during their upbringing, my older relatives experienced life and life’s circumstances differently since they were constantly working diligently, in spite of the disease or sickness in the world. There was no “off day” for them; every day was a workday. Even though every direction of life is telling them to stop working, the idea that they need to work and be a fighter is what drives them and is what makes them more ignorant toward the consequences (G-d forbid there are any). 

If only, somehow, each of us could educate others and help them to understand and sympathize with how horrific this virus is so that its name stops reappearing on all communicative platforms.

The Humanities and Computing

On the first day of class, Professor Schact led a conversation regarding the concept of the humanities. He encouraged the class to interpret this definition. While Google simplifies the term as “academic disciplines that study aspects of human society and culture,” as well as “the human race,” our class explored alternative definitions as we each related the term to our own majors.

On the first day of class, Professor Schact led a conversation regarding the concept of the humanities. He encouraged the class to interpret this definition. While Google simplifies the term as “academic disciplines that study aspects of human society and culture,” as well as “the human race,” our class explored alternative definitions as we each related the term to our own majors.

I explored this concept in my own individual lens. I took a hold of it psychologically, since I am a psychology major. Because of this, I pay close attention to people’s behavior and the way they interact with others. Based on this, I interpreted this term as a way of understanding people and more specifically, understanding how people relate. 

Others of us in the class who may be history or mathematics majors internalized this discussion more in terms of theorem or in terms of field ideas. While we did not all arrive at just one correct answer as to how to define this concept, I do believe that our inability to concretely decide on one definition of the humanities in itself showed the beauty of the term. This class discussion further demonstrated the way in which academic disciplines are so interconnected. Not only are they interconnected as broadly as the material, but also in the words that are used to identify concepts and terms. This umbrella term of the humanities only goes to show how applicable this term is to life itself, which shows what it means to be human.  

Furthermore, a strong relationship exists between computing and the humanities. While I typically associate computing with mathematics and STEM, this term also refers to communication. Last semester I took an Interpersonal Communication class with an esteemed professor, and I realized just how expansive communication is; I do it every day by calling, texting, facetiming, speaking, and writing. It is a continuously ongoing process. To fully link this connection, communication is one of the foundations of the humanities. The only way philosophers years ago were able to make more discoveries and were able to explore ideas is because of communication and sharing ideas. Without this as a foundation, the humanities would be underdeveloped. 

James Gleick discusses the idea of the dictionary in chapter three of his novel The Information. This chapter largely focuses on the production of dictionaries and the growth of vocabulary over time. At the time, philosophers tried to discover every word in the world, but they realized that in order to define a word, such as science, they needed to develop language. To demonstrate this ongoing growth, Gleick defined the dictionary as a “a malevolent literary device for cramping the growth of a language and making it hard and inelastic” (66). In other words, the academic disciplines within the humanities, as well as all other outside knowledge, continuously contribute to this project. The dictionary itself is a reflection of communication between and among people, and also exhibits history as it displays the origin of words. In order to communicate, people need to have a basis of words, and further, words are needed to communicate ideas. The dictionary, as described in the text, is in a specific, organized order. This order is referred to as alphabetic order. It simplifies the searching process so that words can be easily found and also brings additional meaning to words. As said, “only when printing – and the dictionary… could anyone develop a sense of word meaning as interdependent or even circular. Words had to be considered as words, representing other words, apart from thing” which further indicates that in order to understand any word, language itself needs to be understood (66). This itself is the epitome of communication. The only way I can understand or even articulate my own thoughts whether in this assignment or even in a conversation is by understanding the meaning of the words I am using and what meaning they contribute to the sentence I am forming. Words bring rise to more words which further develops vocabulary and meaning. 

To further forge this connection regarding the meanings of words and the connections between people and language, Gleick also includes, “The dictionary ratifies the persistence of the word. It declares that the meanings of words come from other words.  It implies that all words, taken together, form an interlocking structure: interlocking, because all words are defined in terms of other words” (66). This concept of circularity is a good representation of the dictionary and is also supportive of the basis of the humanities. The humanities comprise all of these academic disciplines. Each discipline uses words and concepts that are essential to its study. And these words are also found in other disciplines. For instance, I may learn about Measures of Central Tendency (MCT) such as mean, median, and mode in a statistics class for mathematics. With how interlocked different subject matters are, I may also learn about this exact material as it applies to Behavioral Research Methods for psychology. Just as the dictionary demonstrates circularity within its language, this circularity is then evident within majors and classes. Communication interlocks with the humanities. 

On the first day of class, Professor Schact led a conversation regarding the concept of the humanities. He encouraged the class to interpret this definition. While Google simplifies the term as “academic disciplines that study aspects of human society and culture,” as well as “the human race,” our class explored alternative definitions as we each related the term to our own majors.

I explored this concept in my own individual lens. I took a hold of it psychologically, since I am a psychology major. Because of this, I pay close attention to people’s behavior and the way they interact with others. Based on this, I interpreted this term as a way of understanding people and more specifically, understanding how people relate. 

Others of us in the class who may be history or mathematics majors internalized this discussion more in terms of theorem or in terms of field ideas. While we did not all arrive at just one correct answer as to how to define this concept, I do believe that our inability to concretely decide on one definition of the humanities in itself showed the beauty of the term. This class discussion further demonstrated the way in which academic disciplines are so interconnected. Not only are they interconnected as broadly as the material, but also in the words that are used to identify concepts and terms. This umbrella term of the humanities only goes to show how applicable this term is to life itself, which shows what it means to be human.  

Furthermore, a strong relationship exists between computing and the humanities. While I typically associate computing with mathematics and STEM, this term also refers to communication. Last semester I took an Interpersonal Communication class with an esteemed professor, and I realized just how expansive communication is; I do it every day by calling, texting, face-timing, speaking, and writing. It is a continuously ongoing process. To fully link this connection, communication is one of the foundations of the humanities. The only way philosophers years ago were able to make more discoveries and were able to explore ideas is because of communication and sharing ideas. Without this as a foundation, the humanities would be underdeveloped.

James Gleick discusses the idea of the dictionary in chapter three of his novel The Information. This chapter largely focuses on the production of dictionaries and the growth of vocabulary over time. At the time, philosophers tried to discover every word in the world, but they realized that in order to define a word, such as science, they needed to develop language. To demonstrate this ongoing growth, Gleick defined the dictionary as a “a malevolent literary device for cramping the growth of a language and making it hard and inelastic” (66). In other words, the academic disciplines within the humanities, as well as all other outside knowledge, continuously contribute to this project. The dictionary itself is a reflection of communication between and among people, and also exhibits history as it displays the origin of words. In order to communicate, people need to have a basis of words, and further, words are needed to communicate ideas. The dictionary, as described in the text, is in a specific, organized order. This order is referred to as alphabetic order. It simplifies the searching process so that words can be easily found and also brings additional meaning to words. As said, “only when printing – and the dictionary… could anyone develop a sense of word meaning as interdependent or even circular. Words had to be considered as words, representing other words, apart from thing” which further indicates that in order to understand any word, language itself needs to be understood (66). This itself is the epitome of communication. The only way I can understand or even articulate my own thoughts whether in this assignment or even in a conversation is by understanding the meaning of the words I am using and what meaning they contribute to the sentence I am forming. Words bring rise to more words which further develops vocabulary and meaning. 

To further forge this connection regarding the meanings of words and the connections between people and language, Gleick also includes, “The dictionary ratifies the persistence of the word. It declares that the meanings of words come from other words.  It implies that all words, taken together, form an interlocking structure: interlocking, because all words are defined in terms of other words” (66). This concept of circularity is a good representation of the dictionary and is also supportive of the basis of the humanities. The humanities comprise all of these academic disciplines. Each discipline uses words and concepts that are essential to its study. And these words are also found in other disciplines. For instance, I may learn about Measures of Central Tendency (MCT) such as mean, median, and mode in a statistics class for mathematics. With how interlocked different subject matters are, I may also learn about this exact material as it applies to Behavioral Research Methods for psychology. Just as the dictionary demonstrates circularity within its language, this circularity is then evident within majors and classes. Communication interlocks with the humanities.