Idea: the "woketionary"

by capybaralet1 min read11th Dec 20206 comments

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There are a lot of new terms that "Woke" people use, and a lot of words that they use in different ways than many other people do.  I think it would be useful to have a maximally objective/apolitical online resource to catalogue these.  I think the name is pretty good and it could become pretty popular pretty quickly with good design, branding, and PR.

I think this would be helpful in several ways:
- It would help prevent misunderstandings that are really just about the meanings of words.
- It could help highlight and make explicit political conflicts over which definitions of words are to be preferred.
- It would help people who are not familiar with "wokeness" to get up to speed.

Underlying parts of my model here are:
- Wokeness gets some important things right.  A lot of people could have a lot to learn from wokeness, but might be turned off by the way woke people use words (e.g. a much broader use of the word "racist").
- Wokeness gets some important things wrong.  Broader understanding of wokeness would increase the likelihood of well-informed and well-intentioned critiques impacting woke communities.

I'm using "Woke" to refer to this set of communities/ideologies, even though I don't think it's a great term for it, since I find it can have a somewhat negative/mocking connotation.  It would be nice to have a more neutral term (suggestions welcome!).

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This doesn't seem like a great use of time. For one thing,  I think it gets the psychology of political disagreements backwards. People don't simply disagree with each other because they don't understand each others' words. Rather they'll often misinterpret words to meet political ends.

I also question anyone's ability to create such an "objective/apolitical" dictionary. As you note, even the term "woke" can have a negative connotation. (And in some circles it still has a positive connotation.) Some words are essentially political footballs in today's climate. For example, in this dictionary what would be the definition of the word "woman"?

I'm also unconvinced that this is an EA type of activity. For the standard reasons, I think EA should be very cautious when approaching politics. It seems like creating a central hub for people to look up politically loaded terms is the opposite of this.

This doesn't seem like a great use of time. For one thing,  I think it gets the psychology of political disagreements backwards. People don't simply disagree with each other because they don't understand each others' words. Rather they'll often misinterpret words to meet political ends.

It's not one or the other.  Anyways, having shared definitions also prevents deliberate/strategic misinterpretation.

I also question anyone's ability to create such an "objective/apolitical" dictionary. As you note, even the term "woke" can have a negative connotation. (And in some circles it still has a positive connotation.) Some words are essentially political footballs in today's climate. For example, in this dictionary what would be the definition of the word "woman"?

Sure, nothing is ever apolitical.  But you can try to make it less so.

I'm also unconvinced that this is an EA type of activity. For the standard reasons, I think EA should be very cautious when approaching politics. It seems like creating a central hub for people to look up politically loaded terms is the opposite of this.

What do you mean "the standard reasons"?   I don't think it should be EA "branded".  I don't believe EAs should reason from cause areas to interventions; rather I think we should evaluate each intervention independently.

Having shared definitions also prevents deliberate/strategic misinterpretation.

The existence of a dictionary which claims to be apolitical doesn't mean that people will have shared definitions. Webster's dictionary already exists. This doesn't stop people from having semantic disagreements.

Sure, nothing is ever apolitical.  But you can try to make it less so.

How does one make a "less political" dictionary that explicitly and exclusively deals with political concepts?

What do you mean "the standard reasons"? 

There's a risk of EA being subsumed under one or another political party, which would make it less credible to those of different political affiliations.  There's also the risk of turning into the kind of dumpster fire of bad faith arguments that many political forums encounter. There's also the fact that political issues are relatively less neglected.

I think it is somewhat unlikely that this will meet the fairly high EA bar for being a worthwhile donation or volunteering opportunity. 

James Lindsay has already created something like this, except he is very much "anti-woke" and his dictionary reflects his perspective. https://newdiscourses.com/translations-from-the-wokish/

James Lindsay has already created something like this, except he is very much "anti-woke" and his dictionary reflects his perspective. https://newdiscourses.com/translations-from-the-wokish/