“Negotiated meaning”: What you take from a book may be very different from what the author puts into it. We cannot ask, “what the text means”, for each reader brings to it different knowledge, experience, attitudes and needs.” – Michael Lewis, 2002, The Lexical Approach: The State of ELT and a Way Forward.
My new book, “I Live In Chile” is one in which meaning is negotiated. Once it is in the hands of the reader, nobody will be able to ask me what the text means. The interpretation of the text will be based on what the reader brings with them to the text.
As Michael Lewis pointed out, knowledge, experience, attitudes and needs of each reader will not be identical. Thus, meaning will be negotiated between you, the reader, and me, the writer. Of course you might ask: “Why is this important?”
To negotiate meaning is important, with this book, because it is experiential, based on my experience of living in Chile for the past 12 years. Of course, you are correct if you say to me, “Thomas, that does not make you an expert on living in Chile.”
In fact, there are many people and institutions who are better sources to consult on the topic of what it is like to live in Chile. People involved in social career fields would be a good choice. Doctors and nurses would be a good choice. Mothers, grandmothers and heads of households would be a good choice.
The list of people could be augmented by organizations: governments, World Health Organization, United Nations, UNESCO, OECD, European Union, Red Cross, Un Techo Para Chile, Greenpeace, etc. Again, these are better sources of information than I about what it is like to live in Chile.
I honestly admit that, so that you, Dear Reader, can look elsewhere for those insights from official entities and better situated observers than I. So I urge you not to buy this book.
Don’t buy this book if you are looking for statistics. Don’t buy this book if you are looking for comparisons with other countries. Don’t buy this book if you are looking for extraordinary photography. Don’t buy this book if you are looking for the voice of experts. Quite simply, you won’t find any of that in this book.
Now that I have tried to persuade you not to buy this book, why should you buy this book? That’s an easy question to answer:
It’s because you are curious to know what it is like to live in Chile, and because of that curiosity, you are interested in my story. You want to know about Chile, not from the standpoint of a tourist, or an empirical researcher, but from the viewpoint of a real person, living a real life, in Chile. In short, you are looking for Culture: “Little C”, instead of Culture: “Big C”.
Further, it is possible that our shared knowledge, shared experience, shared attitudes and shared needs, will allow us to negotiate meaning, so that what you take from this book, is what WE put into this book. Yes, I said, “WE”, meaning you and I.
That’s why WE, you the reader and me the writer, decided on a cover for the book together. I value your opinion, I truly do. I’m looking forward to what else WE can do together to make this book a shared reality…