Consequences of choice of symbols: Framing and describing is more than an analytic tool

Framing and describing is more than an analytic tool. The words and concepts used are symbols that carry meanings, often multiple and easily unconscious, that have consequences and affect action. Writing the natural history of the Wrangell Mountains thus can have significant outcomes, beyond helping create a pleasant understanding of local geology and ecology for readers, and the choice of how to write it is significant: the selection of framing, concepts and terms and how they are presented, in what language, and visually as well, because the Wrangells are both a thing in itself and, at the same time, representative of something more. The same, of course, can be said about framing and description of any social or public issue. They are all political.

from Parks, S. D. “Leadership, Spirituality, and the College as a Mentoring Environment.” Journal of College and Character 10, no. 2 (2008), 5:

In Christian tradition, for instance, a dove is often used as a symbol for Spirit. In the Celtic experience of Christianity, however, a wild goose is often used as a symbol of Spirit. The symbols are similar, but they take us to different places. For example, a group of people was asked to think of the presence of Spirit as a dove, and then to consider how they should respond to a situation of injustice in inner-city housing. Their response tended to move in the direction of prayer and patience. Then they were asked to consider the same situation, thinking of Spirit as a wild goose. Their response then tended to move in the direction of mass protest at city hall!

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