Are the limits of your language the limits of your world?

Once released, all messages are objects of unstable meaning. As much as we try to make use of shared codes and protocols, their composition, transmission, reception, and interpretation are subjective moments.

Jennifer Siegler (editor, Harvard Design Magazine)

Has somebody already mentioned that we live in the Information Age? We live in phenomenal times where “individuals are able to transfer information freely and to have instant access to knowledge that would have been difficult or impossible to find previously”. We live in extraordinary times where information is passed through the hands of different individuals and each time translated to fit properly with the audience or the medium at which it is directed.

When we need to pass a piece of information further into a digital medium, the audacity of our translations grow. We find ourselves translating seemingly incompatible languages or semantic fields. Languages made of scissors and paper models need to be translated into pixels; languages made of gestures and looks need to be turned into written lines. All of this needs to be transmitted thousands of kilometers afar. The ones who used to supervise the passing of information and its influence on the product, are often left with an abundance of statistics to interpret, and are critically losing the ability to transfer the knowledge adequately.

In general, we are observing an increasing tendency for “linguistic” difficulties to turn into real obstacles in the productive processes: changes of mindsets and meanings; different interpretations due to cultural and anthropological differences contribute to make us feel lost in an overly complex environment.

We live in remarkable times where business and economic exchange are powerful simplification engines: through defining a goal as a simple economic objective, to reach in a certain amount of time, they privilege quick and effective one-time solutions to slow, in-depth analysis. We perform complex tasks with a superficial understanding of the principles of the disciplines involved.

The same happens with translations: a patchwork of languages and means of expression coming from different backgrounds is often the quickest solution (although often not the most effective).

We live in (post)postmodern times, where most of the rhetoric we consume is based on the premise of a global translatability as the necessary base for a continuous synthesis between cultures and professions. We surrendered to complexity and abandoned the naive, linear thoughts of the avant-garde. We killed the modernist faith, preferring anachronisms and multiplicities. We gave up integrity and praised the inflation, and together came the drift.

Can we now conceive of a different scenario for the future?

We see tendencies to rebuild all around us: rebuild the relationship between humans and nature, rebuild the connection between people and industry, rebuild the ties between us and our bodies. We smell in all these tendencies the traces of neo-purism and neo-foundationalism. Can we instead find some way to go beyond the classic modern-postmodern contraposition? Does there exist a way beyond or only a way back? Are the limits of our world the limits of our language or are the limits of our language just the limits of our world?