IV. 1. Creating categories and mapping meanings

This exercise is meant to help us understand how meaning is created/coded and how it is decoded and/or changed. It points to ways in which through language and communication we come to hold shared and preconceived categories and meanings.

You are asked to think of yourselves as one audience sharing some of the same understandings and meanings, but also to consider what it might mean when we leave out certain categories and meanings.

You can turn this exercise into a game. You will need at least three people to play the game. Begin by splitting into three groups. Provide each group/person the word list below. In total there are 42 words. Each group/person has to create three categories using 12 words for each category (do not repeat the words). You may wish to write each word down on a separate piece of paper, or sticky note, and then move them around to create your categories. Name each category and then lost the words you have chosen.



Once you have named and created your categories, with the words you have chosen, take turns sharing your choices with the other groups. Explain why you choose the particular words and why you think they fit together. Discuss what might be the reasons you have created these categories – what experiences, definitions, values, meanings, people, affected your choices. Also, discuss if (how and why) by putting certain words together in one category we might be leaving others. Do you think that leaving certain words out (by defining categories in one particular way) we also exclude certain audiences?

Once you have done this, remain in the same groups and now come up with an additional category (one new category for each group/person) by using only six words (any words) from the list. Use words you do not automatically think go together. As before take turns explaining your choices.  

As part of the discussion ask each other what the categories you created say about you as an audience? Do they reveal shared understandings of one age group, of ethnicity, of gender, etc.? Do they confirm and/or challenge particular meanings and categories? Which ones? Why?


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